A New Way to Fly

Erica Rodefer Winters tries aerial yoga and discovers some important lessons about her yoga practice, and her expectations.

I knew that hanging upside down from an aerial silk hammock would give me some really great traction on my spine. I knew the feeling of flying through the air would be liberating and exciting. I knew it would be a fun, new way to experience the familiar practice I love. But I didn’t expect it to deepen my practice in any significant way. Of course, sometimes the lessons that are the most memorable are the ones that show up when you least expect them.

Photo from Aerial Fit in Charleston, South Carolina.


My first aerial yoga class, I couldn’t wait to feel the freedom of flying through the air. So when the teacher asked us to place our mat beneath the silk hammock suspended from the ceiling, and use it to give us feedback in poses practiced on solid ground, I got impatient. I was standing in front of my pretty blue hammock, and the instructor wanted me to practice a boring Warrior lunge series? On the floor? Really?! It was like sitting a new, highly-coveted toy down in front of the birthday girl and telling her she has to wait to play with it. Torture!

But even though I felt a lot like spoiled little kid waiting to open her birthday gifts, I decided to try my best to be a good student and at least attempt to understand the lesson this teacher was spending SO MUCH TIME to instill.

We used the hammocks to support our upper bodies in Tadasana, Low Lunge, and Warrior I. While gravity pulled my lower body toward the ground, the fabric beneath my shoulder blades gave my upper body a feeling of buoyancy. I felt my chest rise skyward (or, in this case, a high warehouse ceiling with beams engineered to support several tons of weight) in a whole new way. All these years I thought I was lifting my chest in these poses, I had no idea there was that much more room in my body to lift it higher. Even more exciting, when we stepped away from the hammock, I could recreate the action on my own!

There were other memorable moments. I experienced a Chaturanga as a “pull up” instead of the familiar push up, and realized that I’m not quite as strong as I thought I was. Down Dog and inversions hanging from the hammock were as yummy as they look in pictures, and I felt like a disoriented spider spinning a web as the fabric slowly spun me around 360 degrees, then 360 more. At the end of class, we practiced Savasnana completely enclosed in the fabric, suspended in the air.

It was amazing.

The class really wasn’t anything like what I expected, but it provided some really helpful feedback about my asana practice, and it challenged me to be patient, open to new experiences, and put my expectations (and my ego) in check.

Have you tried aerial yoga? What did you think?