In 2014 when we opened our Aerial program I swore I’d never have a class called “aerial yoga”. Here we are in July 2020 with our new “Aerial Yoga” class premiering. So….why now?
First, I agree with Glennon Doyle that there is a reason Jesus wrote in the sand, so he could change his mind! When I had decided to launch our aerial program I started by taking a bunch of classes and then instructor courses in all things aerial for a year. I went around the country taking “aerial yoga” classes as one piece of our aerial puzzle, the hammock apparatus. The one thing I thought about all those classes was that the term “aerial yoga” was used to describe such a wide variety of classes that it didn’t actually mean anything. At a class in Milwaukee “aerial yoga” was a tricks class with a Shavasana at the end in the hammock; at a studio in San Francisco “aerial yoga” was an intense stretching class; at a class New York it was an actual yoga class with the hammock as a prop. There was no industry standardization of what the term “aerial yoga” meant and, to me, it felt like a poor marketing effort by the studios to get non-aerial people in the door with the term yoga. And that really bothered me. I am not a Yogi. I cannot pretend to be one and I do NOT want to disrespect this ancient art form/religion/practice by using it for a marketing ploy. So I was adamant that we would not use the term. We launched our version of an aerial yoga class and called if Fabric Flexy and I felt I had done the right thing.
Moving forward to 2020, the world is in a global pandemic. Our women are super stressed and fear is real. During the “safer at home” period when we moved to online classes Instructor Olivia, who is a yogi and certified teacher, started doing Yoga classes for our members. They were popular. Students like the quiet reflection they brought. When we resumed our in-person program, some of the Yoga classes have stayed. And it got me thinking. The calmness that can be found in a Yoga class is more needed than ever. What would an Aerial Yoga class look like in my program? How could we help our members with it? Fabric Flex hadn’t been around for a few years as our hammock program grew it didn’t fit. So what would fit with our program and fill the need for calm in this turbulent time?
It is important to me that when students come to a class we are able to meet their expectations and when there is a generic term that is used to describe a LOT of things around the country, that can present a challenge. So my first step in creating our new class was to set very clear parameters of what Aerial Yoga at Aerial Dance is. We already have a tricks class (Beginner Hammock & Intermediate Hammock) so that would NOT be part of our Aerial Yoga class. We also already have a sculpt/fitness hammock class (Hammock Fit) so this is class is not going to duplicate parts of that class. What we don’t have at Aerial Dance is class for quiet reflection and stretch. We have an excellent stretch class (Bendy Babe) but that class is as much group therapy as it is stretching with all the talking, sharing, and support. The best Yoga class I ever went to was at a studio in Boulder, Colorado and it was a silent class; I loved how having no speaking except the instructor voice allowed my to find a deeper level of myself. I’ve looked for a similar class in the area since and have never found one. In a loud world, quiet seems to be lost. The hole in our program is a quiet style class that would allow our members to search within themselves. So, that was a focus in creating our new “aerial yoga” class. Talking is not forbidden in our class, but in the class regulations instructors are encouraged to keep dialog to a minimum to encourage reflection and to use ambient class music.
When writing the class, class pace was also critical to create the feel we needed. There are SO MANY styles of yoga. Which also means that with a hammock you can make it anything you want. My favorite yoga style is the “Yin Style”. This slower paced class holds poses longer and gets into a deeper level of stretch after your body stops guarding the muscles. For me, this gives me a chance to exhale and trust my body to let go. And if the popularity of Frozen is any indication we can all use some “Let It Go”. For this reason our Aerial Yoga class is more similar in style to Yin with slower movements and longer holds.
Lastly, I wanted spinal decompression to be a focus of the class. Inverts are so good for our bodies and the hammock is a safe and effective way to invert. Instead of doing lots of inverts, Aerial Yoga classes will focus on one invert every class and give you ample time to come in and out of it, however feels good for your body. This checking in and listening to your body while upside down we hope helps cultivate body awareness while also lengthening your spine. Walking out the door of an Aerial Yoga class we hope you feel taller, calmer and fluid in your skin; that’s our goal and what I developed the class to achieve.
2020 has brought a lot of changes. As much as I feel like a hypocrite launching a class I swore I never would, I truly believe it is time for it. We have the equipment. We have the knowledge; we have the training (as an instruction team I think we have 6 different Aerial Yoga teaching certifications at this point….) It’s time to let go of my hang-ups on the term as a marketing gimmick and embrace how much all our women can benefit from some calm in their day.