Scots get the hang of the latest fitness trend - aerial yoga
THE position may have to be renamed “the hanging down dog”. Aerial yoga, the gravity-defying practice loved by celebrities including Mariah Carey and pop star Pink, is taking off in Scotland.
The fitness trend, in which practitioners hang upside down in hammocks suspended from the ceiling to perform yoga poses, has become so popular that the Glasgow-based classes have sold out, with budding yogic flyers joining a waiting list to sign up.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of interest in the classes,” said Julie Hanson of Chi & Co in Glasgow, who had to add several steel beams to the ceiling of her yoga studio to allow her to start offering the classes last month.
“People are really keen to try something different and innovative and this offers something really new.”
Aerial yoga, which until now was mostly only available in London, where it is slavishly practised by members of the cast of Channel 4 reality TV show Made In Chelsea, encourages people to find their karmic harmony while cocooned in a hammock, and doing yoga stances including the lotus position and downward dog while floating several feet off the ground.
“One of the benefits is that all your internal organs are resting because they’re upside down,” said Hanson. “The blood is reaching parts of the body it normally wouldn’t reach and giving your organs a rest.”
As well as supporting more traditional yoga positions it also allows for more challenging poses including inversions and backbends, thanks to the support of the hammock. It also means that practitioners can go into ‘deeper’ poses on the floor and even address yoga-related injuries caused by compression of the lower back and overstretching of the shoulders.
“I have [back condition] scoliosis and aerial yoga has really helped me because it supports my back,” said Hanson, who has been teaching yoga for over 30 years. “There’s also the more general feeling of being supported and being able to stretch, and that’s a brilliant feeling. It’s also fun. You can do things you wouldn’t normally dare to, such as stand on your head and hang by your feet. And you feel really good afterwards.”
Celebrity fans include Carey and Pink, who incorporated aerial yoga moves into her recent world stage tour.
Glasgow-based yoga devotee June Charlton enjoyed the classes so much she has started taking her daughter along as well. “You get a much deeper stretch with aerial yoga,” she said. “I do a lot of running and power walks so I get really tight hamstrings and shoulder blades and I feel I can do a deeper stretch with the aerial because I’m supported by the hammock. Both my daughter and I really enjoy it now.”
She said the hardest part of the experience was learning to enjoy the sensation of being off the ground.
“You have to trust the hammock,” she said. “Once you do it’s really quite liberating, but we’re not used to being upside down. Once you get used to it you start to realise just how good it is for you.”
Aerial yoga was first conceived in 2006 in New York by yogic practitioner Michelle Dortignac. A former dancer, she combined her background with yoga poses and the circus art of tissu - which involves performing aerial acrobatics while hanging from silk ribbons - and found that once in the air, the body would start to properly align itself thanks to the effects of gravity.
Aerial yoga is one of a number of yoga ‘fads’ that have gained popularity recently, including laughter yoga, naked yoga and a dangerous version of baby yoga where adults were encouraged to vigorously swing small children around while practising poses.
Ruth Plevin from Yoga Scotland said: “It certainly looks like a fun thing to do, and any form of exercise is a good thing, but to call it yoga is questionable. It’s not what we would call yoga. Why not call it acrobatics or something else like that?”
However Hanson said that in Scotland aerial yoga was likely to be more than a passing craze.
“You get used to seeing things you know people will become bored with easily. The long-term attraction of aerial yoga is it can help people with body issues such as spine and back problems and make many people more comfortable with their own body. It’s unlikely to be a passing fad because it has so many benefits,” she said.
Yoga is believed to date back to at least 3000 BC. The word refers to one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy and is influential in both Buddhism and Jainism. There are various forms, some of which focus on purity of thought as well as movement. The ultimate goal is to enjoy an eternal relationship with Vishnu, the supreme god of Hinduism. In recent years however it has become popular in western cultures, with many practising the physical movements without pursuing more studious forms.
Karmic harmony: Four popular yoga poses for beginners
Try to hold these positions for between 30 seconds and 1 minute
Mountain pose (Tadasana)
A starting position for all standing poses. Stand with heels slightly apart. Lengthen your tailbone, press your shoulders into your back then release them, letting your arms hang beside your torso.
Standing forward bend (Uttanasana)
Stand in mountain pose. Exhale and bend forward from the hip joints. If possible, with your knees straight, bring your palms or finger tips to the floor. If not, cross your forearms and hold your elbows. Press the heels into the floor.
Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
An all-over rejuvenating stretch. Start on hands and knees on the floor, with knees directly below the hips. Spread your palms out. Exhale and lift knees away from the floor. Lengthen the tailbone away from the back and lift your bottom towards the ceiling. Stretch your heels on to the floor and straighten your knees.
Tree pose (Vrkasana)
Stand in mountain pose. Shift your weight onto your left foot and bend your right knee. Reach down and clasp your right right ankle with your right hand, drawing the foot up until it’s against the inner left thigh. Rest your hands on the top of your pelvis and lengthen your tailbone towards the floor. Bring hands together.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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