With participants hanging upside down from colorful silky hammocks, a peek inside an aerial yoga class might look like something straight out of Cirque du Soleil. But according to Janet Egerer, co-owner of PYP Studio in State College, aerial, or anti-gravity, yoga is a form of exercise that nearly anyone can do.
“From the novice exerciser to the professional athlete, there’s something for everyone within the parameters of aerial yoga,” Egerer said.
An aerial practice can enhance an experienced yogi’s mat practice, she said. That’s because the support provided by the hammocks, which are attached to the ceiling via a sturdy suspension system that can hold up to 20,000 pounds, allows for participants to explore poses that might not be as accessible in traditional yoga classes.
But even people who have never practiced yoga before can safely try aerial yoga, Egerer said. “Newcomers can do this; even people who have never done a downward facing dog, who have no idea what pranayama or yoga breathing is.”
Egerer said physical benefits include increased lymphatic drainage, increased circulation, increased brain function and anti-aging effects.
“The No. 1 benefit of this kind of yoga is compression-free inversion,” Egerer said. “It increases blood flow in between the vertebrae, giving you oxygen-enriched blood flowing in and out of the spine with decompression.
“It’s also said to improve mood, because inversions help with anxiety, depression and irritation,” said Egerer. “And it mentally challenges you by taking you into a space past your comfort zone as that relates to inversions or to just doing something new. ... If you can learn to trust yourself in the hammock enough, that’s when the compression begins to release, because then the suspension is doing all the work, instead of you doing all the work.”
Aerial yoga is contraindicated for people with heart abnormalities, glaucoma or current injuries, Egerer explained. There are also some limitations during pregnancy. But Egerer said she would strongly encourage anyone else to give it a try.
“I think there’s something to the adage, ‘Do something that scares you every day.’ You never know if you don’t try,” she said. “No age, shape or size should step away from the experience. There’s no excuse good enough not to try it, in my opinion. We’ve always had a positive reaction from everyone who has tried it, from 14-yearolds to 75-year-olds.”
Developed in 2007 by Christopher Harrison in New York, aerial yoga is relatively new, but Egerer believes that the fact that it has been around for 10 years and is continuing to grow in popularity shows that it is not just a fad.
“Ten years into this modality, we know for sure that it is safe, effective and not just a trend,” she said. “We’re incorporating the playfulness factor of this new practice with breathing and mindfulness and the ancient practice of yoga, making it the best amalgam of yoga in the 21st century.”
Located at 1748 S. Atherton St., PYP Studio has offered their version of aerial yoga, which they call Air Flow, for four years, with two skill levels of classes available each week. They also host private Air Flow parties by request.
For more information, call (814) 308-8100 or visit www.thepypstudio.com.