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Sports & Play

Lifting off at an aerial yoga class

Posted by Lauren Souch / January 18, 2012

Aerial Yoga TorontoI'm by no means a yogi, though I have taken a number of enjoyable classes over the years. Still, because I love alternative and creative workouts, when I heard about bspoke athletics's Zero-Gravity Aerial Yoga class, it sounded right up my alley.

Aerial Yoga is pretty much just what it sounds like — practicing yoga in the air — thanks to a fabric trapeze (also known as a silk). The silk, which is suspended from the ceiling, aids in the performance of traditional yoga postures on the ground or allows the more brave among us to get off the floor and even inverted.

bspoke athletics started offering the program about nine months ago, after owner Jonathan Farber discovered it — by accident, no less — during a trip to New York City. "For me, fun has never been a word I'd use for Yoga," he laughed, acknowledging that while many people do enjoy yoga, it's just not his cup of tea. "But when I saw this postcard I stopped and thought, wow, this looks really fun."

Inspired, Farber began to work to bring the practice to Toronto.

Last weekend I got a chance to stop by and check a class out, and I was pleasantly surprised by how challenging the class really was (though not-so-pleasantly surprised by how sore I was the day after!).

20110117-aerialyoga2.jpgThe session began with some stretching, using the silks in a very basic way for stability and balance. Within minutes, however (at least it felt that way!), we were gearing up to try our first inverted pose. Sitting on the edge of the silk, instructor and self-proclaimed yogi Jennifer Adinolfi instructed us to lean back, wrap our legs around the front of the silk and lock our ankles in; effectively leaving all eight of us giggling and hanging upside down, hands firmly planted on the floor.

"Now lift your hands off the ground, and hang," she said. Eyes wide, I look around and see everyone else tentatively moving one hand, than the other. It took me a few tries to work up the nerve to remove my hands, but once I did it felt great to hang suspended in the air like that, feeling almost as if I was floating.

Later on in the class, we did a shoulder stand — our entire bodies were wrapped in the silk as we hung straight legged, upside down, with nothing but our shoulders dug into the silk for support.

Aerial YogaEven the normal yoga postures involved the silk in some way, and I found it much easier to flex, bend, and hold some of the more traditional poses with the aid of the silk.

I was a bit disappointed we didn't do more inversions during the class, but with a group of mostly beginners — some even to yoga — and an older women who was giving it a whirl, I can understand why Jennifer stuck to more grounded, traditional poses, and it just made me want to go back and work to become more advanced so I can get to the really fun stuff.

20110117-aerialyoga1.jpgRight now, bspoke athletics offers beginner classes a few times a week. If the diversity of my group both in age and experience is any testament, anyone and everyone is capable of giving aerial yoga a try.

Photos by Stephani Buchman, courtesy of bspoke athletics.



Shawna / January 18, 2012 at 10:58 am
I like Yoga but am not a 110lb waif. Are there weight maximums for participants in this activity?
Hah! / January 18, 2012 at 11:21 am
So gimmicky. Just get your fat asses into a gym - there's no easy way out if you're looking to get fit
Shawna / January 18, 2012 at 11:42 am
I'm sorry, but are you picking on me because I'm fat?
J.B. replying to a comment from Hah! / January 18, 2012 at 12:24 pm
The practice of yoga is not about losing weight.
Anna F. / January 18, 2012 at 12:26 pm
It's bat yoga!
Jonathan / January 18, 2012 at 12:30 pm
Hey Shawna,
There is no weight restriction, as our aerial grid was engineered, designed and installed by the same team that work on the Cirque du Soleil set ups. The fabric can handle multiple bodies, though we only allow 1 person in a hammock at a time.

As far as Hah!'s comment, the aerial hammock (silk) is a tool/prop, not a gimmick. TRX, BOSU,Kettlebells etc. are also tools that we use. Perhaps Hah! believes them to be 'gimmicky' as well, but most leading fitness professionals would disagree.

The advantage to this practice is that it offers support to beginners who may find traditional floor based yoga discouraging as they may lack the core strength/flexibility to keep up. They may also experience pain from pressure and too much load on their joints (like wrists in downward dog).

Zero-Gravity Aerial Yoga allows those who are new to enjoy the benefits of yoga from the first class, without compression of joints and vertebrae (or nerve impingement as reported in a recent New York Times article, leading to stroke etc.).

Advanced yogis can enjoy a new challenge and benefit from increased core and limb strength, wich will benefit their regular floor based practice as well.

i reccomend resistance training as well as cardio-respiratory (aerobic) exercise as well for a balanced training plan. We offer the best cycling program in the City, so come on in and I am happy to discuss.
Adela I. / January 18, 2012 at 12:40 pm
I tried it last week, it was an amazing class, I can't wait to do it again. My friend and I were laughing almost the entire time.
Jonathan replying to a comment from Jonathan / January 18, 2012 at 12:43 pm
And for transparency, if it wasn't obvious above, I own bspoke athletics.
Em / January 18, 2012 at 01:27 pm
Bought classes here with a group buy. Huge mistake for anybody with any type of athleticism. Most girls are there for the gimic (even taking photos of each other in one class) After my fourth class I realized there would be no improvement and stopped going even though i had a few more classes left free. Everything is geared towards people with no flexibility or strength. Maybe fun for a beginner, but not a workout in any sense.
Jonathan / January 18, 2012 at 01:43 pm
Hey Em,

As the volume increased with the fall offer, 200 new clients were starting from scratch. Now that the offer is about to expire, we are introducing a Level 2 class, that is an intermediate challenge.

we recommend atleast 6 classes before moving up to Level 2. we are also offering a Strength focused aerial clinic and restorative classes this winter.

I welcome your feedback, and given the fact that aerial yoga is so new to the city, we will continue to pioneer the practice with input from practitioners.

As for your athleticism, why not try our cycling program or strength training for a new challenge?

Hope to see you soon.
AmandaV / January 18, 2012 at 04:31 pm
This is a great studio! The cycling program is top notch and lead by one of the most knowledgeable coaches in Toronto: Jonathan.

And... as a competitive triathlete the aerial yoga classes encourage a more supportive and deeper stretch that I find otherwise difficult to attain in a regular yoga class... and yes I like taking pictures of myself hanging up-side-down... it makes for a supercool Facebook profile picture :-)

PS... Jonathan is also one sexy beast!
AMK / January 18, 2012 at 04:42 pm
From experience in the class I would certainly say this would be great for someone athletic as well as those who don't consider themselves to be. It does take some time to get used to, as anything good will, but with experience moves and poses can get much more advanced. Beginner classes shouldn't include anything like that, but if you are wondering how far you can take it, just consider that these are similar silks to those used by true circus acrobats. I find it to be safe challenging and fun. And imagine your whole body suspended in silk. Where else can you get that on a regular basis?
Pritza / January 19, 2012 at 08:44 am
I have been going to this studio since it opened. It is top notch and very different from other places. The attention to detail in cycling, training and aerial yoga is fantastic. The yoga, if you are used to a flow class is different for sure, and can feel like a gimmick at the beginning. But once you do it and surrender to the type of stretching you get into, where it hits you in your body, the strength you need to do it, etc - you realize - wow, this is amazing. And my kids have tried it as well and LOVE it. Plus, there is nothing compared to relaxing in that hammock after all the endurance.

Try new things, balance, you need lots of different activities to maintain a healthy body.
Michael / January 19, 2012 at 10:19 am
I really like it. I guess it might seem gimmicky to look at it. But I found I actually got a deeper stretch suspended than with regular yoga. Also, earlier in the year I injured my back and hip flexor and stretching in the silks was the only thing that gave me relief.
Randy Rosenberg / January 19, 2012 at 10:20 am
Great Class as i lets you stretch and utilize muscles in ways that you can't do with only your body and a mat.
Kitty K / January 19, 2012 at 01:37 pm
Hrm, I'm sure that the owner of bspoke is probably going to tell me that I am wrong, but as someone with many years of experience with both yoga and aerial arts, I gotta say that this looks like a bad idea to me.

Yoga alone and aerials alone are both disciplines in which one must be *very* aware of things like precise alignment and controlled movement in order to avoid injury. Lots of amateurs sustain injuries while dabbling in aerials. Lots of folks also sustain injuries from improper yoga technique. Combining the two adds unnecessary risks.

To claim that you can suspend in the air to avoid pressure on joints and vertebra is a bit of a stretch (pun fully intended) -- the pressure is merely displaced to different areas and sometimes in ways which could place un-trained aerial newbies at increased risk of other injuries and strains.

Dangling in the air is not the key to minimizing potential negative impacts of yoga. The key to that is better yoga instructors.

Far better to study each discipline on its own & reach a reasonable level of mastery of the basics before ever trying to get up on aerial silks to do your asanas.
Rob / January 19, 2012 at 01:39 pm
My primary focus is running and cycling and if you are like me you don't stretch enough. Since adding ariel yoga to my regular strength and endurance training on the road and at bspoke athletics i feel great and have stayed injury free.

Jonathan replying to a comment from Kitty K / January 19, 2012 at 03:29 pm
Hey Kitty,

Our Instructors are Yoga teachers first, who have trained and studied Aerial Yoga before completing their Zero-Gravity. They attend regular clinics to update their skills and knowledge with one of the folks who helped shape the original content for the program (who is a very seasoned aerial arts performer, Dancer and Pilates Instructor as well).

Education is key here at bspoke athletics, and that is why I support your assertion that better Instructors are the key.

I encourage you to take a class here and maybe you will rethink your opinion of the safety of our program. We have offered more classes than anyone else in the city, since openning in March, and have not had any injuries.

We have had a lot of folks work through injuries during their rehab with success.

I hope to see you one of these days.
Sara / January 29, 2012 at 09:05 am
I took this class yesterday - it was great! Jennifer was a great instructor who made sure everyone was feeling comfortable and performing the poses properly. Loved it! It made me want to join the circus.
Kaori / January 29, 2012 at 05:53 pm
The Extension Room in the King East neighborhood (approx. King and Parliament) is offering an Aerial Silks class on a workshop basis on February 12, 19, 26 for $75 plus tax for the three 1.5 hour classes. Taught by guest instructor and Toronto dancer Jamie Holmes:

It's not yoga though. It's more of a dance focus. This studio is a ballet fitness studio.

If you want to look into it:
Cheri / January 31, 2012 at 04:58 pm
I would really like to try this....I need to see if they offer the zero gravity aerial yoga classes in Colorado...anyone know?
Mleczko / February 4, 2012 at 11:24 pm
I took the aerial yoga class, and while it was interesting, I didn't really find the female instructor friendly or enthusiastic. I didn't feel comfortable, and I wasn't sure if I was doing all the moves properly.
Barbara replying to a comment from Shawna / November 24, 2012 at 01:09 am
The silks are rigged to about 2000lbs. Don't you worry about a thing! It's crazy fun.
Donny replying to a comment from J.B. / September 19, 2013 at 02:59 pm
It seems there a few here not familiar with yoga or the benefits of inversions. Someone stated (on this post) yoga is not for losing weight. Yoga is a sanskrit word for unity. It is a whole and complete system that addresses virtually any physical, emotional, spiritual, mental or sexual imbalance (if approached that way). It can be used for nearly anything from Weight Loss to Cancer.

Also, aerial yoga has a particularly large number of inverted poses and requires a person to become aware of their body with a little more help from gravity than usual. This develops a person awareness of their environment and speeds up physical awareness tremendously!

Here are a few articles on inversions:

I hope this clarifies a bit more about how this unique and effective yoga has unique benefits!
m / October 11, 2013 at 01:31 pm
I just did a suspension yoga class at a new studio on george street. I was surprised to hear that the studio owner and sole teacher only had one yoga certification, the one specifically for suspension yoga and had just graduated in May. This was surprising because that particular certification course is only 4 days long. Most basic yoga teaching certificates are at least 200 hours or one month long.

During the class you could tell her knowledge of anatomy, differentiation skills and adapting to the needs of her students were very weak. It seemed super dangerous to have such an inexperienced teacher in such a risky form of yoga. People are going upside down for god's sake.

I guess what I'm trying to say is be careful when trying such trendy activities as this. The people teaching you may not be as professional as you want them to be.
high" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Lyle / October 18, 2013 at 11:37 am
Or what ever you want to support the deck by digging holes in the hot tubs
heart problems ground.
Athena / November 1, 2013 at 01:22 pm
Hello I just saw this on Barries CTV channel last week. I would like to give it a try. Where are you located. Thank You
sue / June 13, 2014 at 07:04 am
Do you have ariel classes in scarborough Ontario or Toronto?
Doreen / April 10, 2015 at 09:49 am
I am 65 years old and have wanted to try this for some time and was wondering if it was possible because of my age? I already do basic yoga once or twice a week and a daily walker. I don't have any health issues except a little arthritis in the joints. I also would like to install this in my house and was wondering where can I buy this and are there different qualities in the silks?
sandy / May 25, 2015 at 05:46 pm
I just tried this for the first time yesterday. I'm 58, probably 10 pounds over my desired weight, and just started working out again with a trainer (30 minutes twice a week) a couple of months ago, after a work-induced hiatus - in other words, I'm very out of shape. The trainer's studio offers aerial yoga, and assured me it's for everyone. I can't tell you how much fun this was. And also how sore I am today - not pain, but a reminder that my muslces are going under-utilized. The experience inspired me to find a regular yoga studio and return to the basics, so I can build enough strength again to make the most of this "bat yoga." I have to say, in my entire life I've hated crunches, until now. Doing crunches while hanging upside down is a really cheap thrill!
Steve / July 2, 2015 at 08:44 pm
Yoga classes are very help ful.
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