Alternative title: how I learned to quit worrying and let go.
My friends Kevin and Jessica had taken aerial yoga before, and after hearing about their experiences, we planned a date at the Om Factory in the Fashion District of Manhattan:
We entered the class to find a room full of slings hanging from the ceiling and a few females who introduced themselves as sisters and co-instructors, Grace and Laura. They – along with basically ALL of the other students – are younger than me and my friends by… let’s say a lot… and could fit right into an episode of Girls without even trying. This is not meant to be disparaging in any way. It’s just that their mannerisms and speech patterns and personalities were very millennial. And their class playlist consisted of Robyn, Temper Trap, and M83, which I really dug and am pretty sure I’ve actually heard in an episode of Girls.
After Laura adjusted my sling to my height, we discussed how our party of one Kevin and two Jess’s would require the instructors to create nicknames for us to tell us apart (I proudly accepted Grace’s choice of “Jess Leia” after seeing my Star Wars race shirt on the way in), and we got started by sitting on our mats while Grace… led storytime? I don’t know how else to describe it.
And again, this is in NO way meant to demean or insult, it’s just a fact that we sat there on our mats for 5-7 minutes while Grace told us about how she had just returned from Mardis Gras where her friend got so caught up in getting ALL THE BEADS that they didn’t have fun. She then talked about how her mother called in a panic after hearing about an accident at Mardis Gras that happened a mile or so from them, and that was a bummer. This was a fun story about Mardis Gras but also a… metaphor for yoga and life? Don’t get so caught up in getting all the beads and just enjoy the process? OK. I can do the deep breathing and stay centered, but I also paid 25 American dollars for a 60 minute class and feel like we kind of wasted 10 of them on storytime.
However, that is the ONLY negative thing I to say. Once we got to the yoga part of yoga class, these ladies were phenomenal. Encouraging, strong, incredibly funny and welcoming, Grace instructed verbally while Laura took a sling at the front of the class and demonstrated. Their sisterly dynamic added to it, also.
We started off doing basic yoga poses to warm up, using the fabric to do pull ups and squats and lunges, which I felt immediately. Having the fabric there to help me open up my hips and stretch the rest of my body felt incredible. Then we did downward dog while folded over the fabric, and floated by tucking our knees up and turning into eggs, engaging our cores to stay stable. My first time off the ground in yoga and I loved it!
Next we made the first really frightening move: standing ON the fabric. I was terrified, but had no time to panic: before my brain knew what was happening, everyone around me hoisted themselves up so I did too, and suddenly I was standing in the fabric, three feet above the ground, my head in the ceiling! It took lots of core and arm strength to stay balanced, but I focused and nailed it. I guess Grace’s story about just living in the moment really did have some value 😉
The final part of our class was spent going upside down and sideways in a variety of ways. This was my favorite part, especially because, as Grace and Laura said, “We face the wall on these poses so we can be vain and see ourselves in the mirror when we go upside down.” They just get me, these girls.
This was another case where I was scared at first, but after just letting go (in the metaphysical sense, of course, because physically holding the fabric was the only thing keeping me from cracking my skull open), I was upside down and able to fold and bend into some incredible positions I never thought possible. The only negative to all this: my over enthusiastic posing had me swaying more than my inner ear would have liked, and my motion sickness acted up pretty much instantly. I can’t win.
After spending the last 15 minutes of class working on these poses, we then unfurled the fabric of our slings to create delicious cocoons where we lay in savasana and floated for a good few minutes. I would go back to class just to do this for an hour.
Finally when class was over properly, we were allowed 10 minutes of “play” time to practice whatever poses we wanted, take pictures, and clean up our spaces. We had fun taking pictures together and laughing about the poses I didn’t attempt because my body was so shredded (I’m looking at you, aerial split). This was also fun to see other people in the class totally whip out these incredible routines – I’m guessing they were all circus performers or ballerinas or both, because they were so talented that I found myself just watching a few times.
All in all it was an incredible experience; I enjoyed it a LOT more than I expected, and I can’t wait to go back. It was a super intense workout, too – 3 days later my abs and upper body are still sore, and I can see this being a great complement to my running and a way to cut loose and have fun while getting a workout in.
Have you ever tried aerial yoga? Is it something you’d like to try? Let’s hear it in the comments!