9 Aerial Yoga Poses For Beginners & Beyond + Benefits Of Anti-Gravity Yoga Asanas

Are you an experienced yogi looking to add some fun and freshness to your practice? Or are you a beginner struggling to hold the plank pose and downward dog? Either way, why not switch up your practice with some aerial yoga poses?

Aerial yoga, also often referred to as anti-gravity yoga,  is one of the most accessible (and fun) styles of modern yoga, as it can be tailored to your fitness level and experience. 

After feeling bored and stagnated in my yoga practice, I decided to give Aerial yoga a go, and guess what as a beginner, I was instantly hooked!

Aerial yoga promotes a feeling of freedom that quickly becomes addictive! Read on to learn the most common aerial fitness exercises, discover the benefits of an aerial class, and what to expect in one. 

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Benefits of aerial yoga 

Aerial yoga provides many of the same benefits as other yoga styles. Aerial yoga is good for improving flexibility and range of motion. However, the weightless sensation you experience during an aerial yoga class gives the practice an added element of freedom and fun.

9 ways aerial fitness can benefit you:

  1. Improves core strength and stability
  2. Improves flexibility and range of motion
  3. Releases physical tension and tightness
  4. Particularly good for decompressing the joints
  5. Can help you lose weight – A study by ACE found that aerial participants had a lower body-fat percentage after six weeks of practicing aerial yoga.
  6. Destressing and mood-boosting
  7. Boosts confidence and self-belief as it pushes you out of your comfort zone
  8. It makes inverted postures more accessible
  9. It gives quicker progression than other yoga styles

Aerial yoga poses for beginners to advanced

Interestingly, aerial yoga can have many sub-styles, and it differs depending on the teacher and studio. It can be a fast-paced, challenging practice focused mainly on the physical body or a meditative and restorative experience with a slow pace and more emphasis on the mental aspect. 

Whatever type of aerial yoga you want to do, this is a style you need to learn in a studio setting. Attempting aerial fitness at home without a proper setup can be dangerous. However, if you're wondering what to expect from an aerial yoga class, here are the most common aerial poses for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. 

3 Aerial yoga poses for beginners 

If you're trying Aerial yoga for the first time, here are three beginner-friendly postures you will likely encounter in your first class.

1. Downward dog

Woman practicing aerial yoga in downward facing dog pose.

Like in mat yoga classes, downward dog is often one of the first poses you will do in an aerial class to warm up the body. It involves folding over the hammock with the fabric resting in your hip bones. This takes the weight off your arms and legs while still allowing you that juicy full-body stretch.

2. High lunge pose

Woman practicing aerial yoga in high lunge pose.

You can practice a high lunge with the hammock with the back foot hooked in the fabric and the front foot planted firmly on the ground. As you bend your front knee and sink the hips, you keep the back leg extended (and the foot lifted).

3. Supported chair pose

Woman practicing aerial yoga in supported chair pose.

Another easy pose to do in the swing is the chair pose. You start with the fabric wrapped behind your mid back (under the armpits and shoulder blades). Extend your arms to grab the material above you and plant both feet firmly on the ground. Then, bend your knees and sit back, allowing the fabric to support your back. 

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3 intermediate aerial yoga poses 

Once you get the hang of using the aerial hammock, you can try these exercises. 

1. Plank pose

Woman practicing aerial yoga in plank pose.

The aerial version of the plank pose is not too strenuous, but coming into the posture can be tricky for first-timers. Begin in an all-fours position on the floor, facing away from the hammock. Lift one leg, placing the ankle in the fabric. 

Press your hands firmly into the ground, shifting your bodyweight to your upper body as you lift the other leg to bring both ankles in the fabric. You then extend your legs and ensure your shoulders are stacked over the wrists as you hold for five breaths. 

2. Warrior 3

Woman practicing aerial yoga in warrior 3 pose.

Warrior 3 is an easy movement to execute but one that tests and challenges your balance and stability. From standing, grab hold of the bottom of your swing. Engage your core, and as you exhale, extend your arms forward, pushing the swing away from you. Simultaneously float one leg back as you lower your upper body.

3. Tree pose

Woman practicing aerial yoga in tree pose.

Tree pose is a super fun movement as it involves floating your entire body off the ground. You start by stepping one foot into the swing (the fabric should be tight together so your toes and heel are free). 

Holding on to either side of the hammock, take a moment to find your balance. When ready, lift your other foot and bend the knee, bringing your leg around the front of the fabric to place the foot on your thigh. Then place your hands in a prayer position in front of your chest with the material hooked under your armpits.

3 advanced aerial yoga poses 

Advanced aerial yogis can use the hammock to create resistance rather than offer support, or they can use their flexibility to create beautiful shapes like these.

1. Inverted butterfly pose

Woman practicing aerial yoga in inverted butterfly pose.

Although it doesn't require much strength or flexibility, the inverted butterfly pose can be challenging to enter. First, bring the sling behind you and glide the fabric down to just above the hip bone so it stays comfortable on the lower back. Lean back to come into the inversion with the material in the front of your hip creases. 

Next, open the legs, bend the knees into butterfly legs, and then hook the feet around the fabric or bring the soles of the feet to touch. Let the arms hang down.

2. Inverted dancer's pose

Woman practicing aerial yoga in inverted dancer pose.

From an inverted butterfly, you can transition into an inverted version of the elegant dancer's pose. Hook the left foot around the right strap, then extend the right leg back.

Reach one arm back to grab the right foot, then reach the other arm back, deepening the backbend. Then, slide the left leg up the fabric to straighten it.

3. Inverted bow pose

Woman practicing aerial yoga in inverted bow pose.

To deepen the backbend further, transition into a bow pose by unraveling the left leg and extending it back (the fabric stays under the low back). Bend the knee and grab both feet with both hands. 

Origins of aerial yoga

Aerial or flying yoga utilizes a silk hammock suspended from the ceiling. The fabric supports your body as you hold yoga poses and allows you to hang upside down in a safe and supportive way. It is a combination of yoga and aerial arts, including acrobatic-style movements and classic yoga moves. 

So where does aerial yoga come from? Unlike hatha yoga, the aerial workout does not originate from wise sages in India. This modern Western practice was first developed in the early 90s in New York, USA when Broadway choreographer Christopher Harrison created an aerial fitness system known as AntiGravity Fitness.

Since then, many fitness instructors have developed aerial fitness further, including Florie Ravinet, who got the practice approved by a physical therapist.  

Can anyone do aerial yoga? 

Thanks to the support of the aerial hammock, aerial yoga is suitable for all levels, and instructors adjust the practice to their students' needs. 

For beginners, the silk hammock can support your weight in postures like plank pose, making these strengthening asanas more accessible. This makes aerial yoga good for beginners.

However, yogis with experience can reduce the assistance the hammock offers to make the practice more challenging and strength-building. 

So does this mean that aerial yoga is easier or harder than traditional yoga? According to Aerial Yoga Academy, the hammock supports half your body weight, making aerial yoga 50% easier than traditional yoga with a mat. So no, aerial yoga is not harder than traditional yoga, it’s actually easier!

The support of the hammock can also make learning balance postures and inversions much easier. So, if you've been struggling to do a headstand on a yoga mat, you may find you pick up the aerial version after just a few sessions. 

However, I noticed from my experience that it takes some time to get used to the aerial hammock.

When I attended my first aerial yoga class, I thought I'd pick it up instantly as I had been practicing yoga for many years. However, I found the yoga poses feel very different when doing them in a silk hammock, and it takes a while to trust the hammock to hold your weight.

This is especially true for learning inversions in aerial classes because we are not used to hanging upside down like that! 

Lastly, it's important to note that aerial yoga is not recommended for:

  • Pregnant women 
  • People with eye conditions such as cataracts or detached retina 
  • People with conditions that cause unregulated blood pressure

Takeaway on aerial yoga poses for all levels

Most anti-gravity studios offer classes for all levels where you can give these aerial yoga poses a try! Many will also offer different styles or class emphasis. So, double-check before booking to determine which class is best suited for you. And remember, it's totally normal for it to feel weird at first. But if you stick to it, it will feel fun and freeing after just a few classes! 

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Gemma is a Certified Yoga Teacher of over 5 years. Aside from being a CYT 200, Gemma is also certified in Yin and Yoga Nidra. Gemma is passionate about sharing her expertise of yoga and wellness through words, guiding others along the path of personal and spiritual development. She is in LOVE with everything related to personal-growth and psychology. Aside from helping others find more peace and stillness, Gemma runs a kitten rescue project in Thailand, where she is currently residing. Gemma can be reached at gemmac@theyogatique.com, or you can connect with Gemma on LinkedIn.

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