I’ve been a Yoga instructor for over 20 years, and I can say with some certainty that the number one question I get asked from students in their first Yoga class is, “Am I doing this right?”
AM I DOING THIS RIGHT?
To the novice practitioner, Yoga is a pretty odd activity. Unlike most other fitness classes, Yoga classes usually start with some sort of singing, or breathing technique, or story outlining a specific moral or ethical finding. Then, students are guided through some calisthenics. After the students are warmed up, rather than continue with more physical exercises, they are asked to stay still for several breaths while making a sculptural shape. Next, another sculptural shape to stay in for several breaths, followed by another, and another, folding the body over in various ways, sometimes stretching, sometimes balancing, sometimes trying to develop leg or arm strength. After some time, all the students lie down seemingly to take a nap, and then the class ends with more singing or encouraging words by the teacher.
Add a hammock to this picture, and it’s even more confusing.
What on Earth is going on? Is this some sort of Cirque du Soleil self-help group?
It’s no surprise to me that new students frequently ask the question, “Is this right?” because it’s difficult at first to understand what we’re even trying to get from a Yoga class in the first place. Are we supposed to sweat? Are we supposed to be out of breath? Are we supposed to feel a little pain (no pain, no gain)? What if I don’t “feel” anything? Am I doing it wrong? Is this what stress relief feels like? Is this even exercise?
If you’re new to Aerial Yoga, and don’t know where to start, let us help guide you. First, Unnata Aerial Yoga was uniquely developed for all levels of experience. Some classes may be more physically challenging than others, and some classes may emphasize more of the mental and emotional benefits of Yoga. But, don’t worry! You don’t have to be particularly athletic to understand, benefit from, and have fun in this class. That being said, there is a bit of a learning curve involved in getting used to the sensation of the hammock, and how to maneuver through space with the hammock. And although people of all ages, all physical fitness levels and all levels of experience with Yoga have thoroughly enjoyed our classes over the years, as a newbie, it can be really helpful to take a few mindful steps to ensure your first few classes are just as magical as you hoped they would be.
AT YOUR FIRST AERIAL YOGA GROUP CLASS
Next, since you’re new to Aerial Yoga, I suggest doing yourself a favor by placing yourself as close to the teacher as you can. You’re going to want the teacher’s eyes and ears on you a little bit more than the rest of the group so as to help you navigate the twists and turns of this unique Yoga class. Most likely, you will need a little more guidance – either hands-on guidance, or more verbal explanation, to help you understand what you’re trying to accomplish along with literally what shape to do next.
Especially in a large group, when you’re close to the teacher, you hear instructions better, you see demonstrations better, and the teacher is able to notice you more easily, too. She’ll be able to more quickly and smoothly assist you in those instances when you start confusing your right from your left, or if you get tangled in the hammock, or lost in your direction.
It won’t take long before you get the idea of how this whole thing works, but at first it’s all one big mystery. When is pain “good pain?” When is your sweat the sign of detoxification as opposed to over-exertion? And when you feel comfortable, what is your mind supposed to be doing?
JUMP-START YOUR AERIAL YOGA SKILLS
Another great option, if you can swing it, is to schedule private classes. Private classes are just you and the teacher, and the teacher will guide you at the pace that will make the most sense for your specific mind and body, whether that’s slower, or faster than your average class. Without anyone else there to wait for you while you learn some of the basics, you can also ask all the questions you want, and it won’t interrupt the “flow” of the class. I’m not saying you have to take on private classes forever – just a couple to help you get started on the path headed in the right direction. It might be all you need to confidently dive into large group classes.
And, if you’re located in New York City, you also have a third option – sort of a blend between group classes and private lessons. As of January, 2020, we’re debuting pre-scheduled semi-private classes in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. With no more than 3 people per class, you’re guaranteed a higher percentage of the teacher’s focus on you, but the cost is much less than that of a private lesson with just one person.
Just like there’s a difference between learning the steps of a dance, and actually freely dancing, when you start your Yoga journey with private and/or semi-private classes, you can get to the benefits of an established Yoga practice a little sooner. You’ll be in that place of relaxed flying and carefree floating before long.
So, how do you know when you’re practicing Aerial Yoga correctly, the “right” way? Take an Unnata Aerial Yoga class, and you’ll develop the awareness and confidence to practice the “right” way for you!