I’ve convinced my friend Jo to attend a beginner’s class with me at Kaya, immediately following the other two activities I talked her into the same morning: a lesson in strongman training and a handstand clinic. (She is a great sport.)
We enter a room filled with brightly colored polyester loops hanging from the ceiling and are instructed to select one based on what color we are drawn to that day. Jo picks sapphire blue, and I choose kelly green. Hadji Jones, my instructor, begins the class by teaching us how to climb aboard safely. Over the course of the next hour, we progress through a series of movements, maneuvering our legs, arms, and torsos in and out of our respective loops, swinging and hanging at different angles.
Jo likes simply being cradled inside the cocoon of fabric the most, the womb of it encapsulating her completely.
My favorite poses are the ones that involve hanging completely upside down. I crave inversion—I always have—and to be able to let go completely feels satisfying in some meaningful way. Without the pressure of the ground beneath my feet, I also discover I’m bendier than I previously thought. (Very slightly, anyway.)
“The hammock supports you through transitions—sometimes even life transitions, ” says Jones. He’s preparing to move to Atlanta in the next few days, and he says he’s finding even more meaning than usual in his aerial practice. “You build confidence when you move through some of the more courageous transitions.” This rings true to me, and I find myself moving with more surety with each subsequent pose.
After class, I try to fight off the urge to drape myself over the backs of furniture…and fail. I’m excited to get back to it soon—the support and restfulness of this activity is something I’ve been seeking.
Schaeffer says there isn’t a safe DIY version she recommends for home practice but that you can recreate the feel of aerial yoga during a related practice performed with a partner called AcroYoga. As with any fitness pursuit, however, it’s best to learn from a trained professional, so if you’re interested in giving aerial yoga a whirl yourself, search for specialized studios in your area.
Besides, you haven’t really lived until you’ve performed shivasana from the inside of a cocoon.
Jen Sinkler is a longtime fitness writer and personal trainer based in Minneapolis who talks fitness, food, happy life, and general health topics at her website, jensinkler.com, and writes for a variety of national health magazines. Earlier this year, she authored Lift Weights Faster, an e-library of over 130 conditioning workouts for fat loss, athleticism, and overall health.
Jen works with clients at The Movement Minneapolis, a facility that uses biofeedback-based training techniques. She is a certified kettlebell instructor through the RKC (Level 2) and KBA, and an Olympic lifting coach through USA Weightlifting; she also holds coaching certifications through Primal Move, Progressive Calisthenics, CrossFit and DVRT (Ultimate Sandbag).