You know you are an aerial yogi when you lose access to your hammock or aerial yoga classes and something deep inside you feels incomplete. When the quarantine shut down aerial studios, those of us without home rigs lost access to hammocks or became dependent on the weather to use an outdoor rig. What’s an aerial yogi to do without a hammock in the house?
Unnata evolved in to the rich method it is today by a long process of exploration. As teachers and students continue to invent, observe, and share ideas, the whole community benefits. So, for those of us without hammocks, let’s use our time off to explore new props and apply some of Unnata Yoga’s methods with the suggestions below.
(For full, complete Yoga classes which use a bed or sofa to replicate the hammock’s support, check out these videos, or these streaming classes with Unnata founder, Michelle Dortignac.)
When exploring the edges of your own creativity:
Step 1… Find objects sturdy enough to take part or all of your weight.
Step 2… Grab a strap, belt, or substitute.
Step 3… How can we use our sturdy objects to:
– use the pull of gravity to create internal space?
– fall off-balance without actually falling to the floor?
– create pressure to stimulate an area energetically or physically?
General Technique & Safety…
Listen to your body’s response to the prop and move slowly. Exploration with new props can be risky, so use common sense to not place yourself or others in harm’s way. As you explore the asana, breathe fully. Ground both through the line of gravity, as well as any limb that makes contact with the floor. Make sure you have a safe exit plan that doesn’t jar the body or scrape the skin.
Now, Set your Drishti…
In Unnata yoga, the focus of postures and movements is inward, with an intention to calm the mind. If desires, fears, or judgements surface, surrender them to a higher purpose and return to your breath. Although props (especially new ones) can easily steal our attention, shift your awareness away from the prop and back in to your own body.
Couch Knee Hangs
Place a rolled mat under your knees to prevent sliding. Adding ankle weights on your “couched” ankles will allow even more release through the low back. Scoot to the edge of the couch for 1/2 hero variation.
Chair on Chairs
Mimic the pelvis and thigh release of a Rib Hang by scooting two tall chairs snuggly around your middle and pressing down with the forearms. The lats, shoulders and back press down to stabilize the weight of the hips. The heart lift of the rib hang is missing, but you can still explore several rib hang and Lolasana variations. (pictured: Chair, Figure-4, Updog, Lolasana)
Shopping for Animals
(Coincidentally, I took these photos outside a PetSmart.)
Reach the hips back and the arms forward to create a contrast and balance between as you move through cat/cow and sink in to downdog.
For Monkey, Half-Star, & Straddle, an inch is a mile! Hold the cart securely as you press with the foot or leg and start to lean an inch or two. Avoid collapsing the chest.
Make sure you are on a flat surface and that your cart doesn’t pull to one side. If you find it moving to one side as you come to plank, try to evenly balance the weight and effort between right and left sides.
Enter the Goddess
Since the angle of a doorway is different than a hammock, we need to change the angle of the arms to achieve the same feeling of ‘windmill’ or ‘goddess arms.’ bring your palms to the doorway and walk forward. Press in to the frame as you expand your frame, filling the space around your heart with full breath.
Back Seat Cobbler
I didn’t have a yoga strap, so I used my yoga mat bag, and it worked perfectly! The trick to this posture is leg activation. Sit backwards in the back seat of your car in baddha konasana. Put a strap (or mat bag) around your hips and under your ankles. Press your feet in to the seat as you actively rotate open the femurs. Hold the headrest in front of you. Keeping your legs active, slide your seat off the car seat. You may even be able to use the seat belt, if it is the right style and size for you. LOW BACK SAFETY: I do not recommended this posture for people with instability or discomfort in the sacrum.
All Hangs on Deck
Pad the deck railing with a folded mat or blanket, and DO NOT do this if your deck is high above the ground. Start on the outside of the railing so that your head is deck-side as you hip hang, placing the rail at the top of the thighs. Hold the railing bars as you adjust one leg at a time. Try a down dog variation or a Figure 4 to open the hips. Note: Before you try this one, you should make absolute sure your railing can hold your weight safely. Not sure? Then, skip this one.
Seaweed, meet Treeweed!
Find a thin but sturdy tree or thick metal sign pole . Face away from the tree/pole and wrap a strap around the trunk above your head, or cup the tree/pole with your hands. Place your feet to either side of the trunk. (This will press your hips forward a bit and feel awkward.) Lean your hips forward slightly and slowly sway the hips to the side until you feel a lateral stretch. Sway side to side as you expand the chest and armpits open.
Lateral Bend/Gate Pose (Parighasana):
Stand beside the tree and step your outer foot back for stability. Cup your outer hand around the tree/pole (or grip your strap) and lean the hips away. Experiment with rotating the torso.
Hang from the hands from any of your available options on the playground, as you gradually lengthen through the back leg and add more weight to the legs.
1 – A lunge with no legs! Reach both legs behind you for less weight on the legs.
2 – Walk the feet slightly forward for more arch and to ground through the legs.
You know the drill! Put the swing across your lumbar and widen your legs. If the swing is too low, flip it around the pole a few times to shorten it, dig a hole, or walk your head forward a bit and rest the forehead on the hands.
LOW BACK SAFETY: A flexible rubber swing supports the back much differently than a rope or hammock. Do not assume that you know how your lower back will respond. Test out a short 15-20 second inversion to see how the muscles of your low back respond. Enter and exit with twice the care and half the speed you would on a hammock.
Share your own ideas and discoveries in the comments below!
About the Author
Becky Stella is an Unnata Aerial Yoga Course Leader, teaching Unnata® Aerial Yoga since 2009. She is founder of www.AerialYogaOnline.com, a resource for aerial equipment, rigging, instructional videos, and trainings.