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.

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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.

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