Aerial yoga: art and athleticism together


Grace Dorsey

F irst there was aerobics in the ‘80s, then came pilates in the ‘90s; Zumba ruled the ‘00s and now, more than ever, an onslaught of new and trendy workout methods have flooded modern fitness culture. Many of the top activities like barre and aerial yoga combine graceful performance with muscle-burning moves. Aerial yoga in particular offers participants anything from a good stretch to a career in entertainment, depending on the skill-level. Part-time instructor Hannah Henze first delved into aerial yoga three years ago.
“Some things just call to you. When I started doing aerial, it was challenging and painful. But I like a challenge, and I like pushing myself, so I wanted to continue to better myself. My drive to become better still continues,” Henze said. “Now I’ve become an aerial instructor in both lyra and silks;  plus, I’ve recently been accepted into one of the world’s top circus schools for a semester-long training program that will result in a diploma for an instructor of circus arts.”
Not everyone, however, pursues aerial yoga that far. Some, like junior Lauren Reynolds, simply like the odd class or two once in awhile. Reynolds first tried aerial yoga after a summer of mat yoga. When comparing the two, Reynolds believes there are benefits to both, including mindfulness, but overall aerial yoga offers a more elevated experience both figuratively and literally.
“I think [aerial and mat yoga are] different things. Yes, Aerial yoga is a combination of normal yoga, [but] you can almost compare [it] to a tumbling class,” Reynolds said. “It has it’s own unique twist to it. I think both are really good, but with [aerial] I feel more accomplished; I get into more poses and do more things.”
While regular yoga has been around for 5,000 plus years, aerial yoga as a workout really only became accessible to the public in 2007, according to  Since then it has joined mainstream fitness avenues, with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Vanessa Hudgens fitting aerial yoga into their workout schedules.
Famous actresses aren’t aerial yoga’s only connection to theatre. Back when creator Christopher Calvin Harris first developed the practice, actual stage harnesses served as an inspiration, according to For aerial yoga instructor Wendy Batson, the activity acts as a way to live out her love of dancing.
[quote]I’ve always wanted to be a ballet or contemporary dancer, and I’ve never had professional dance training, but aerial makes me feel like I have the strength and flexibility of a dancer,” Batson said.  “And I think it is important for people to remember that you don’t have to have a dance background to be able to do it. It is accessible to anyone.[/quote] Batson isn’t alone in her comparison of aerial yoga to dancing. The grace that characterizes both the fitness and performance sides of aerial yoga also attracted Henze.
“[The] performance art and the look of effortlessness from dancers in the air is what really piqued my interest in aerial. I love it when aerialists look strong and powerful but also agile and graceful,” Henze said. “It is an incredible workout that utilizes the entire body but especially stamina, upper body, core and flexibility. You can also use it as a way to release stress, create and express yourself in the performance aspect.”

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