Yoga has been praised for its many benefits for thousands of years. Avid fans and practitioners boast its benefits: increased strength, more mental clarity, improved flexibility… the list goes on. As one of the best workouts for both the mind and body, it only makes sense that the popularity of the practice that originated in India only continues to grow around the world.
One of the most popular yoga variations to rise to popularity in recent years is aerial yoga. Incorporating yoga-based poses like headstands, aerial yoga copies familiar movements of the traditional practice; but in the air. Shape.com sums it up explaining that you “hop into a silky sling-like hammock, which is draped from the ceiling and supports your full body weight. You’ll manoeuvre the fabric so that you hold poses (like headstands) or perform tricks (swings, back-flips) inside it.”
Sounds fun, right? But — is there a point? According to fans of the acrobatic classes, aerial yoga has all the same benefits as regular yoga. Plus more.
Unlike traditional yoga, aerial yoga is actually a cardio-heavy workout. “At the outset of the study, we didn’t necessarily anticipate that the physiological responses to aerial yoga would align with those of other, more traditional forms of cardio exercises, like cycling and swimming,” Lance Dalleck, Ph.D., an assistant professor of exercise and sport science at Western State Colorado University told shape.com. Burning an average of 320 calories per session, aerial yoga might help to scorch body fat in a way that regular yoga doesn’t. For people with previous injuries, aerial yoga might be the perfect solution. Because of the suspension provided by the hammock, this is a no-impact exercise making it a great alternative to running or jumping required in other workouts.
However, other evidence suggests that while aerial yoga has its positives, it might not be the holy grail that some claim. “Any positive effects, like a flushed face, are transient,” Allan Stewart, an MD from New York City told health.com “If you’re specifically hoping to ease back pain, you may be better off using an inversion table, which is designed for therapeutic use.”
And while Stewart makes it clear that he’s “not saying that hanging upside down is necessarily bad”, there are some people for whom the aerial aspect might pose problems. “Anyone with heart failure defined spinal problems, or glaucoma” should probably avoid the practice altogether, according to the MD. Additionally, it’s recommended that anyone who is pregnant, has an eye disease or recent eye surgery, vertigo, high/low blood pressures, or bone disorders are among those who should consult a doctor before trying aerial yoga.