Aerial Yoga brought me back to days of working with children and Sensory Integration. Walking into the room with the soft fabric hammock handing down reminded me of the purpose of hanging and swinging. Sensory Integration is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Occupational Therapists working with children with children of all abilities use this theory, “SI”, to provide body sense awareness stimulation to children who need help with processing information and provide the correct responses from their body.
I couldn’t wait to get started. I have a passion for yoga and love to experiment with all types. One of the benefits I already know I would gain was the use of a support system. I have great difficulty maintaining positions for very long due to a type of arthritis, spondyloarthropathy, that affects my muscles, tendons and/or ligaments where it enter into the bones, making them irritable and shortened like arthritis does. So flexibility is not a strong point of mine! Using a prop helps to keep neutral spine and protect joints. At the beginning of class, I initially thought the hammock was going to be a great support throughout the session but there were draw backs. Especially if it wasn’t positioned correctly at the beginning of the session. When the support is too high or too low, you won’t be able to achieve the neutral spine needed for good alignment. It puts your body at a disadvantage. I saw participants in Savasana on their mat with their ankles in the loop of the hammock and thought about its affects of the knee with hyper-extension and the strain it then would cause on the low back. My own compensation was to open the hammock up to support from the knee down or placing my feet together in the loop as if doing the butterfly pose. I did feel the hammock was a support in some poses yet another aspect of the hammock became an interference with some areas needing protection from injury. Compression from the material into your legs, hips or around your wrists could be damaging sensitive lymphatic and circulatory pathways. After a painful attempt of trying to sit on the look of the material,the instructor finally gave a modification and called it “the princess and the pea modification”. The effect of the fabric rolling or shifting can become a tight, painful band and restricts flow of blood and lymph to the area. Not something you want to cut off when you are trying to heal, stretch and strengthen. Brief periods of compression and release will gently stimulate movement of fluids. Too deep or too long can cause damage to systems mean to transport your body’s vital needs.
Another interest of mine when I attend a yoga class is the cues teachers use. Too often improper cues can cause unhealthy loading responses from muscles as well as over extend the joint. Directing the shoulders over the wrists is putting the bones at an angle of over the “normal” range of 70 degrees wrist extension! Then you want to put how much body weight on that joint? Definitely not a position you want your wrists to be in if you have carpal tunnel or other wrist, hand and shoulder issues. I also was aware of the amount of elbow hyper-extension in the room. Poor joints! Not a word about neutral spine. But she did sing and say words of meditation. A very gentle healing touch at the end. All great healing influences.
The anti-gravity ability of this yoga practice is amazing. Once you get the right placement of the hammock and positioning of the fabric to support your body appropriately you can begin to reap the benefits! I haven’t done a somersault in years but with the help of aerial yoga, I was able to get my vestibular stimulation and do a somersault without touching the ground.
Ending inside the aerial hammock was like being inside of a Body Sox. Yes, I have been in one. And in a tunnel pushing a therapy ball through it with stuffed animals and a kid! Sounds fun, right? These are techniques used to influence the nervous system to a calm state by providing deep pressure to the skin and muscle receptors. A bit too long in the hammock though caused a little discomfort to my back due to the considerable amount of stress that it puts on the spine. When caring for joints and ligaments, being in spinal flexion, which is where most of us spend our day, and out of neutral with even mild additional force or compression for extended periods of time can harm your spine.
Overall, I enjoyed my first experience with Aerial Yoga and would go back again to try different sessions!
Comment or email if you like this article! Let me know how you like my reviews!