Take a swing at aerial yoga at home

1/14/2017, 6 a.m.
Over the past decade, aerial yoga classes with names like "anti-gravity," "flying" and "acrobat" yoga have appeared on studio schedules ...
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— Over the past decade, aerial yoga classes with names like "anti-gravity," "flying" and "acrobat" yoga have appeared on studio schedules -- and with names like those, there's an intimidation factor.

But many people don't realize that if you're capable of sitting on a playground swing or lying on a hammock, you're actually capable of doing aerial yoga.

Despite its sexy appearance, aerial yoga isn't just about the spectacle of hanging from a silk swing. Like traditional yoga, it actually has many stress- and pain-relieving benefits. In fact, being able to invert with the swing's support can decrease spinal compression in the same manner as inversion tables used by physical therapists and chiropractors. Personally, I find that supported inversions in a yoga swing ease pressure and release my low back in a satisfying way no other technique ever has. Because of this, I was inspired to hang one in my garage gym and recommend it to anyone who gets relief from low-back decompression or simply wants to add a fun tool to their health and wellness arsenal at home.

You can find numerous yoga swings online with prices ranging from $50 to $150. Although swings are generally made of silk or silk-like fabric in a consistent hammock size (I refer to the U-shaped section of the swing as the "hammock"), there are variety of handle styles available. Some swings feature only drapes of fabric as holds on either side, while others have single, double or triple sets of handles. My swing has three sets of handles of varying lengths, which I think offers added support and comfort for navigating different positions.

When hanging your swing, follow all of the directions to ensure that you have it at the right height with enough space for safe freedom of movement. It's essential that you use a solid support that can sustain your swing's maximum weight capacity, usually about 300 pounds. If you install permanent anchors in the ceiling, you must use studs; if you're unsure of how to establish the proper mounts, get a contractor to help you.

Begin on the ground

Just because it's called "aerial" doesn't mean you need to leave the ground. Start with a simple single-leg balance.

Aerial lunge

Stand behind your swing. Hold the middle handles on either side for support as you step your right foot through the hammock center. Allow the swing to support your upper leg, just above the knee, while your lower leg hangs above the floor. Your left foot remains grounded, pointing straight ahead. As you gently lean forward into a lunge position, your left heel can rise, but keep your toes down. Center your weight through your core and leverage the resistance of the swing to help balance. Take five long, deep breaths. Repeat on the other side. Once you've mastered balance and comfort in your lunge, add a twist.

Twisting aerial lunge

From the lunge position with your right leg forward, move your hands from the handles to the sides of the hammock at shoulder height. Gently press your left hand forward as you release your right hand and reach behind you, rotating from the middle of your back. Turn your head to look back toward your open right palm. Take three to five long, deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.