Preparing for a pose, Nicole Kellogg, an instructor at SLR Pilates in Niles, takes a deep breath and leans backwards into a yoga position.
Hanging upside down from a looped hammock attached to the ceiling, she is not doing regular yoga. She is taking part in aerial yoga, one of the biggest fitness fads to hit yoga studios in recent years.
Trending in places such as Los Angeles and New York City, aerial yoga, which adds to traditional yoga by suspending someone mid-air using nylon hammocks, is the next big thing in large cities. However, you don’t need to book a plane ticket to test out the craze; SLR Pilates is one of a handful of studios in the Michiana area to offer classes in the gravity defying exercise.
“It’s about balancing your mind, your body and your life,” says owner of SLR Pilates Stephanie Reno, who has been offering aerial yoga classes since October 2016.
Nicole and Stephanie say that aerial yoga, as the name suggests, is very similar to traditional yoga, but adds an extra dimension to yoga that is new and exciting.
“You can do many traditional yoga poses with the hammock,” Stephanie says. “In some ways, it’s a little easier, because you can do poses that you can’t do just on the traditional mat.”
According to many practitioners of aerial yoga, the benefits of the exercise include increased flexibility due to the suspension taking pressure off joints and muscles, and improved body strength.
“With aerial yoga, you are able to open the body in a way that you wouldn’t always necessarily get in a traditional class,” Nicole says. “You are able to get inverted, upside down and decompress the spine, allowing for more movement, more oxygen to the brain and it moves the lymphatic system around. I also think that it does something for you that’s not just physical, but mental. You’re tapping into a different side of the practice, overcoming fear and gaining some self-confidence.”
Despite easing tension and movement, Nicole describes aerial yoga as an all-over body workout that does not target any one body part in particular.
“A lot of people who do it for the first time are surprised at how hard it is,” Nicole says. “You have to use all of your body weight and utilize every part of yourself to get you there.”
As aerial yoga requires both core and upper-body strength, Stephanie says that some yoga experience is necessary to fully appreciate the practice. However, SLR Pilates offers both beginner and restorative aerial yoga classes, which focus less on strength building that would be suited to everyone, including those new to yoga.
It is important to note that aerial yoga is not for everyone. If someone has any type of brain injury, glaucoma, high blood pressure, has just had surgery or is pregnant, Nicole and Stephanie do not recommend that they take part in aerial yoga.
As aerial yoga is relatively new to smaller regions such as Michiana, Stephanie said she is proud to be one of the first studios to offer classes in the subject.
“It’s kind of rare to find a studio like this around here, because we aren’t in a big city,” Stephanie says. “But because we are in downtown Niles and we keep our costs low, we are able to invest back in our business and provide awesome things like [aerial yoga].”
Because SLR Pilates has clients from all over the Michiana region, Stephanie and Nicole want to encourage anyone who is interested to come try out aerial yoga.
“Anyone can do it if they want to do it. All they have to do is try,” Stephanie says. “If someone is in the yoga or pilates world, they should definitely try it.”
Photos by Michelle Pulling