In my recent adventures of exploring new and exciting ways to both relax and exercise, I came across the practice of aerial yoga. As an Occupational Therapist, I couldn't help but think of how my kiddos would benefit from it! ---
Since reaching out to local businesses that have aerial yoga, a few of my co-workers and I were able try it out and take some tips and tricks back to our practice (many thanks to Kula Yoga & Wellness for the opportunity). Just as we imagined, our kiddos literally rose to the challenge to try different yoga-inspired positions and loved it!
The experience we've had introducing it to our kiddos has been so great that I thought I would research and share my findings about the benefits of aerial yoga (for kids and adults alike).
What is Aerial Yoga?
According to the Unnata Aerial Yoga website,
"Aerial yoga is a fun and transformative new way to practice traditional yoga. Using a soft, fabric aerial hammock suspended from the ceiling, you'll explore new and traditional yoga postures with your body weight partially or fully supported. This allows you to expand flexibility, increase range of motion, build strength, lengthen the spine, and relax the nervous system. Never more than a few feet off the ground, you'll let go into gravity, be held in the hammock, and awaken yogic bliss."
Watch this video to check out how aerial yoga can be implemented in the pediatric setting. It is is an example of a session developed and facilitated by Lindsey Lieneck, MS, OTR/L RYT of Yogapeutics in Austin, Texas.
What does this mean for us and our kiddos?
It is a SENSEational experience
Aerial yoga offers a unique opportunity for vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile input.
Vestibular input is received within the inner ear. It detects changes in head position with changes in level and direction from the swinging motion of the suspended hammock. In aerial yoga, you are encouraged to explore going upside down, which offers an array of benefits including improved circulation, and flexibility. Exposure to vestibular input in a safe way can help to improve balance and coordination. Click here for more info on the importance of "upside down play."
Proprioceptive input is received from the deep pressure of the material against the body when resistance is applied, which can have a calming effect on the nervous system and improve body awareness.
The tactile input is received from the material against the skin. Therefore, kiddos seeking these types of sensory input, or who would benefit from further development of these systems, could benefit from what aerial yoga has to offer.
It Can Help Target A Wide Range of Muscle Groups and Skill Areas
Aerial yoga can be used to target many different muscle groups.
- For example, gripping onto the aerial material during movements helps promote hand strengthening, maintaining the head and neck in a neutral position helps to develop head and neck strength, lifting the legs and acquiring positions helps develop core and back strength. Aerial yoga positions typically require a couple steps to complete; therefore, a wide range of skills can be targeted, including: sequencing, working memory, imitation skills, attention, motor planning, and coordination (of one or both sides of the body).
Additionally, the hammock style and element of suspension can act as a unique tool to help facilitate traditional floor yoga positions that may be too advanced due to a lack of strength/endurance/flexibility. This essentially makes traditional yoga even more accessible, providing an opportunity for the brain and muscles to experience the feeling of which muscles should be activating in order to sustain a pose.
It Can Promote Emotional Wellness
The first thing you will notice when the kids (and adults alike) are practicing aerial yoga are the smiles on all the faces. Aerial yoga can be fun! The second thing you will notice will be the shine of confidence and perseverance. The poses are enticing to imitate and practice, which makes it even more rewarding once the positions are achieved.
Engaging in this new view, the individual's perspectives of their world, their abilities and the creative possibilities widen just a little bit. It also helps to create a positive association to fitness and yoga as a meaningful occupation. This opens the door to share and teach the many benefits of yoga (e.g., breathing, mindfulness). Skill building, a sense of self-efficacy, and fun with fitness are really big rewards for anyone, especially our kiddos. Aerial yoga truly is SENSEational!
So, whoever you are, parent or teacher looking to try something new, I encourage you to explore the world of aerial yoga! If you are interested about learning more, here are some resources you may want to explore:
Cottage Grove, WI
*(offering Tween Aerial Classes, private lessons, both adult and children's birthday party options and more!) *
Madison Circus Space
(offering various classes, lessons and even a $15 Try It Out Class)
The American Center at UW Health
(offering teacher trainings and hammock sets and information for in-home installation)
Unnata Aerial Yoga
(offering info about aerial yoga, teacher trainings, blog, find classes near you)