Turn Your Practice Upside Down

By Oui We contributor Sam Spahr

The proverbial “they” say that mom knows best. Well, the older I become, the more I recognize my own momma proving this adage to be true. 

mommas hands by Sam Spahr

One day she came home in a cloud of bliss and sore muscles courtesy of the new yoga class she’d been frequenting. I’d listen to her tell me about it before: It’s different. It’s challenging. The instructor is wonderful. We hang in hammocks . . . And as we daughters tend to do, I snapped on my younger-than-thou attitude with a quick “sounds cool, mom,” a gentle decline to her subtle invites. 

I mean, I’m a fit (aspiring) twenty-something who could tackle circuit training sessions and some serious cycle classes. I looked to yoga for the stretch, the release, and spiritual discipline, but I was certain that any class my mom found to be “challenging” would not be enough for me.

Until I saw a photo of my mom in the class.

There she was, hanging up side down in her own cocoon. She was twisted up in silks suspended beautifully from the ceiling of the studio. Whatever this was, I knew I needed in on it.

grouphang by Sam Spahr

My first aerial yoga class was exciting, difficult, and completely rewarding. Here's what goes down

  • There's a hammock (think one long scarf made of completely durable, sturdy, and safe material) that hangs in a “U” shape from the ceiling. It’s attached with a series of carabiners and web straps so that it can be adjusted to hang according to your height.
  • Imagine doing familiar yoga poses (and some new moves) only now you incorporate you body through the hammock

Does the hammock make it easier? Heck. No. It does allow you to execute poses in a new way. The material can offer stabilization giving you the confidence to stretch deeper and open further. It can challenge you to push your entire self in new ways. Our instructor is fond of planking whilst your feet are in the hammock, almost as much as she enjoys a version of a full body pull up via the hammock. What can I say, she knows how to break us into a sweat as well!

The most rewarding part of the whole experience though is 100% the inversions.

hang by sam spahr

You will learn how to safely and strategically wind yourself through the fabrics which alone will test your core and arm strength. Once properly prepped, it’s time to either fold forward, roll down, or arch backwards - depending on your intended inversion pose.

Your instructor should never let you hang longer than is necessary or healthy, but once you feel comfortable and can get your mind to stop thinking about smacking the ground (because you won’t!) you’ll find your spine release with each deep breath. Sometimes I close my eyes, focus on my breathing, and I honestly can't remember which way is up. And for me, that’s kind of the point. I'm learning that I am capable of more than I thought, and I'm definitely stronger - mentally and physically - than I give myself credit for.

upside down by Sam Spahr

There’s something about disorienting not only your body, but your mind and spirit too. Inverting wakes up your body, blood flow, and energy. Feel your senses gently reorganize and recharge.

Take it from a once stale cookie, it only takes a shift of perspective (and a loving apology to your momma!) to reinvigorate your practice and the way you see yourself. 

A quick google search for aerial yoga near you should have you flipping around in no time!

Best to you,

Sam