Getting fit while hanging out

Aerial yoga in action. Pic: Aerial Yoga London

I am hanging upside down suspended from the ceiling with my legs wrapped behind my head.

“Just let your body relax,” a soft voice tells me. I don’t think I can relax as I look up towards the ceiling and see the delicate piece of fabric that I am intertwined in; it looks like it could snap at any minute.

“Trust the hammock to hold you,” I hear. The voice belongs to Ivonne Vogt, my teacher for today’s class.

I am at Aerial Yoga London in Whitechapel experiencing first hand the new trend that has made its way over to the UK from New York.

The new form of exercise combines traditional yoga and movement with the support of material suspended from the ceiling.

The dainty fabric is made from nylon which is the same material used to make parachutes, and can hold up to 300 kilos.

Vogt first turned to the new form of exercise as a mean to lose weight. “I was overweight and just didn’t feel comfortable with myself,” she tells me as she walks around the class gently moving people into position. “Aerial yoga really helped me to get fit.”

The benefits are endless. The list includes increasing blood circulation, alleviating muscle tension, increased concentration and core strengthening.

I can already feel the strain on my muscles as I attempt the one legged king pigeon pose. For this the swing is round the back of my hips and is the only thing supporting me as I attempt to lean back and grab my leg.

I usually do not do any forms of exercise and it is starting to show. I am not flexible enough to bend back by myself. I stand embarrassed as I watch my fellow class mates glide back gracefully.

Though everyone in the class looks like they have been doing aerial yoga for years, there is another first timer like me.

“I work with children with disabilities,” Sarah, a nurse at the local hospital tells me. She is here to learn about how to use the harnesses. “We want to start sessions with the kids to help them learn to relax without it being too boring.”

Vogt gently pushes my upper body back. “This is not a competition,” she insists. “It’s important to know our bodies limits, but it is also important to know that we are capable of much more than we think.”

She guides me into position and I somehow manage to maintain it for a good 30 seconds before my body gives in.

“Let yourself fall into the hammock and just swing.” Vogt demonstrates while making it look easy.

Trust the material, I repeat to myself as I give it my all. To my surprise my body falls straight onto it. As I sway mid air, I start to relax. The swinging motion reminds me of a rocking chair, and it almost feels therapeutic.

“That’s it for today guys,” I hear as I open my eyes. The class has ended and a sense of disappointment comes over me – I was just getting the hang of it.

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