The one thing that Ubud in Bali is not short of is yoga classes. It has become a real hub and while there is a strong emphasis on vinyasa, ashtanga and types of flow yoga, (where all the postures are linked together into a flowing sequence, with a variety of repetition with variation and often a quicker pace), you really can find just about any type of yoga here.
While my injury was a lot better, it prevented me from doing many of the more intensive vinyasa classes. I still wanted to try new things and this was the first place that I have been to offering Aerial, or sky high, yoga. Actually it seems to have a variety of names depending on the trademark of the organisation who taught the teacher.
I chose a studio nearby based entirely on the fact that I had only a 3 days left in Ubud, and their class was on one of the mornings left (many of them are scheduled only once or twice a week). Just goes to show you should try to plan these things a bit earlier!
I buzzed of to Astudiom on my scooter for an early morning class, never my favourite time to do a yoga class, doubly so when you have been out for a gourmet fine dining meal with wine pairing the night before. I wasn’t hungover (really I wasn’t), but I never sleep well after drinking and I was feeling tired and not at my optimal best.
I arrived in the nick of time (traffic in Ubud is always dreadful and I had missed the sign!), and headed straight up to the studio. It was an aerial yoga for beginners class, but I really had no idea what to expect. I placed my mat under the beautiful bright sunflower yellow hammock, and sat back to wait.
What made the class totally new from the off was the fact that the teacher was from Russia and spoke no English, and had a translator (also not a native English speaker). This wasn’t a problem at all, but everything was at one remove and the beautiful tones of Russian were what accompanied the teacher. That said some of the instructions didn’t come across that well and I was a bit foxed from time to time!
Luckily I was situated next to him, and we were facing the rest of the class so i was able to watch him and copy, and he adjusted me a few times.
Aerial yoga is damn bloody hard work. The hammock (in some classes this is more like a flat rope, or a band) is used to support the body in a variety of yoga poses. It is not acro yoga (acrobatic), and swinging around doesn’t really some into it.
We started with a floor-based sequence, using the hammock to support one ankle in the air, as we did a series of lunges and forward bends. The back leg in these postures would normally be passive, supportive on the ground or balanced in the air, whereas during an aerial yoga class they become a point of focus for deepening the stretch in the joints (particularly the hips and sacro-illiac). The weight of the body is the pivot or balance weight and so you only really go as deep as your body can cope with – either from a flexibility point of view, or a holding your own body weight one.
The class was a very slow flow class – we did a series of sequential postures, although the pace was very slow and just like a Yin class, it felt very deep very quick and a number of times I really wanted to come out well before our time was up!
We moved the hammock to under our upper thigh for a sequence, and also around our hips to the front and the back, allowing us to hang in a supported way bringing our arm strength and core strength into the mix.
What was really surprising was the real depth of the postures in terms of waking up the very deepest muscles – you are supported so are not having to hold your own body weight in quite the same way. Think of doing a warrior 2 with a hammock supporting your upper thigh on the front leg. The strength in the legs to hold yourself up is not needed so much as the hammock is doing the work, and so you can bend deeper, you can adjust the back leg and foot in a different way, and you just get an entirely difference experience from the posture.
It was also quite uncomfortable having the hammock digging into your body, especially around the hips, and the traditional “Instagram” picture of aerial yoga, of someone hanging upside down in Easy pose, or Cobbler, was actually very uncomfortable and while the hanging upside down bit was nice. I had to come out quickly.
Doing a relaxation while cocooned in a hammock, aided by a bit of a nudge from the teacher so you are swinging around, was really very relaxing, as Savasana always is after a really challenging class!
All-in-all it was deeply challenging class. I can see that doing aerial yoga on a regular basis would really enhance your core strength and build a lot of strong muscles in your core, legs and arms. The teacher had very big muscles!
I did really enjoy the experience and would like to do it again, perhaps with an English-speaking teacher so I could ask more about adjustments and ways to get used to the postures and the hammock. I would definitely love to bring this style of yoga into my local area!