It was perfect yoga weather the morning of the aerial yoga class at Yoga on the Vine, at the Triangle in Edgartown.
I have taken my fair amount of yoga classes — I owned a mat and had mastered child’s pose. But aerial yoga, I figured, must be on another level of difficulty. The thought of not only trying something new, but trying something new while hanging upside down, was intimidating. I thought I should be able to chaturanga blindfolded while juggling before I attempted to take my practice to such great heights. I figured I’d give it a try anyway.
Instructor Jen Delorenzo sat waiting for us in a serene white room; seven colorful hammocks swung in the breeze. The hammocks are adjustable and secure, and made of some sort of silky spandex that is soft but sturdy. I lay back in one, and felt almost instantly relaxed. Then Jen took care of the rest.
The class starts with simple movements; she explained how to just feel comfortable in your seat with the fabric in your grasp.
Most of the poses were unfamiliar, and were more about being fluid than stationary. The idea is that the body is able to move in entirely new ways while supported — the floor is not there to get in your way, as in traditional yoga classes. For me, it was as if I’d broken some fourth wall of yoga. I felt ethereal.
But above all, it was just fun. Jen never asks anyone to do anything that might be painful. In most yoga classes, I am twisted into some weird half-crane-looking thing, supporting my entire body weight with one hand while I silently curse the day the instructor was born, all while being mindful of my breath, of course. Instructors usually preach to “listen to your body,” and repeat modifications you can use for positions. I, however, never quite know how much discomfort equals pain, and how far I should push myself. But Jen made me feel at ease. She gave us great tips on how to gauge our body’s limitations. Yoga can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful.
Inversions are a common part of practice in more intermediate yoga classes. Inversions are beneficial for a multitude of reasons. They promote healthy circulation, elongate and release tension in the spine, and improve flexibility. Being suspended in midair in aerial yoga brings the inversion to another level of intensity — gravity also urges the body to deepen a stretch. We did moves rolling forward, rotating our shoulders. The best was the inversions we did flipping ourselves upside down, using only our waists and legs to hold ourselves up.
Swinging perpendicular to the floor; the tension started to build in my neck and back. Until this point, every movement had been manageable. But now, I was being asked to relinquish control. My back was bending, but my hands were gripping the hammock as if my life depended on it. But as they say, you have to trust the instructor, trust the fabric, and believe that your body won’t let you fall. The scariest part was the complete flip. It was like doing a sort of somersault in the air and releasing ourselves out of hammocks as we stepped out onto the floor.
Hesitation turned to happiness, though, the moment my toes touched the floor.
The class ended with lying back in the hammock, which was unfolded at this point so it could cocoon my whole body. A calmness came over me as I contemplated the simple accomplishments of the previous hour.
I left feeling rejuvenated inside and out. My previous yoga practice did nothing to either aid or hinder my experience that morning. More than anything else, I found, you have to go into the class ready to confront your own uncertainties. You’ll be surprised what you’re capable of if you just learn to let go.
Find aerial yoga at Yoga on the Vine, at ModSpa in Edgartown: themodspa.com/yoga-on-the-vine.php.