We Tried This: Aerial Vinyasa (or Upside-Down) Yoga

How a TIME reporter found herself hanging upside down from the ceiling in a yoga class

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I’ve never had much of an affinity for being upside down, so I have a cache of excuses for avoiding roller coasters and I quit doing gymnastics right after the cartwheel unit. And yet somehow I still found myself voluntarily hanging — or rather stuck hanging — upside down in an aerial vinyasa yoga class.

As Healthland’s reviewer of the wild world of unconventional workout classes, I recently signed up for aerial vinyasa, also sometimes referred to as suspension or antigravity yoga — one of many yoga-fusion classes gaining popularity among yogis and fitness junkies alike. The class blends music and circus acrobatics with classic yoga moves, incorporating a sturdy silk sling suspended from the ceiling. The silk serves as a supportive aid as you hold challenging positions, or move from one position to another, and you also hang from it — or, in my case, get tangled up in it — during the upside-down inversions.

“The practice works your whole body and allows you to do moves without compressing your spine,” says my instructor Angelina Borodiansky at OMFactory in New York City. “You will feel it all over, and it can increase your flexibility and overall body circulation. With the hammocks you’re going to be using muscles in different ways than you would in a regular vinyasa class.”

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Which brings me to how I found myself dangling in an inverse triangle pose by my feet. Spending time upside down has long been a part of yoga tradition, but handstands require a lot of upper body strength. The silk hammocks — which hold up to 1,000 lbs. — make it easier for less experienced yogis to make the flip.

Thankfully, Borodiansky instructed me back to an upright position, and I was well on my way to a killer warrior pose in no time. Although some moves are more advanced than others, the class caters to beginners. “Everyone can benefit from this. It’s really fun and it’s still a workout,” says Borodiansky. “In a regular yoga class sometimes you forget to have fun and to smile, and the hammock really brings out the kid in the yogi.”

Indeed, if you’re the type who falls asleep during child’s pose, this class will definitely spice up your standard yoga routine.

(MORE: We Tried This: SLT Megaformer Workout)

At OMFactory, aerial vinyasa yoga costs about $16 to $20 per class. The studio offers plenty of package deals, however, including a $45 one-week trial for first-timers. Classes range from an hour to an hour and 30 minutes.

A word of warning, aerial yoga is not recommended for people with serious health complications like glaucoma, heart disease or recent surgery.

MORE: 5 Unconventional Fitness Classes To Try Now

2 comments
Yeshuratnam
Yeshuratnam

Sifferlin's experience is rather bizarre. Ancient Indian Yogis who first introduced yoga were ascetics and they were  illiterate. They were ignorant of the circulation of the blood. They were ignorant of the function of the lungs or the bloodstream. They foolishly believed that each breath circulated air throughout the body of a person.  So they foolishly gave importance to deep breath, ignorant of the fact that lungs are meant for breathing. The purpose of the lungs is to bring oxygen into the body t and it removes carbon dioxide in the blood Yoga gurus were ignorant of the fact that once inside the lungs, air moves through the large bronchial tubes which branch off into the smaller bronchioles. The newly oxygenated blood moves into the heart where it is pumped throughout the body. Modern yogis are also stressing deep breath which, they claim, will send the air to vital organs. As for instance, to get sex power they want the air to be directed to sex organs by mental power. What a foolish conception.  Yoga gurus are also ignorant that the heart pumps blood equally to all parts of the body and that the air goes only to lungs and does not circulate to other parts of the body by deep breathing. Yoga gurus mislead people by saying that deep breath invigorates every part of the body. They also say that the link to integrate body and mind is breath. Air goes only to the lungs can be proved when fast runners exclaim, " I had to stop running to catch my breath,' or ' my lungs will burst.' They mislead people by saying that if we stand head upside down (sirasasana) blood will stream into the brain to make us intelligent and to have good memory power. If this view is correct, then blood will be always streaming into the foot area which is a lower part of the body. Did Archimedes and other scientists stand head upside down to improve their intelligence? So it is all bunkum.