Experience yoga while suspended in the air.
With her body supported by a soft fabric hammock suspended from the ceiling, she adopts a pose as if standing on her hands. It looks comfortable, relaxing and meditative.
The woman, Manao, is an instructor of aerial yoga, a new type of physical fitness exercise that has been spreading in Tokyo and elsewhere in the last few years. With the support of a hammock, people can move their body effortlessly. They can also enjoy the feeling of floating in the air.
Manao first learned aerial yoga in 2011, and opened her Aerial Yoga Studio Mana in Minato Ward, Tokyo, last year to help spread the exercise.
“Adopt a pose while in the hammock or suspending your body from it, then the gravity of your weight on your legs and waist spreads, and your body is freed from unnecessary force,” Manao said. “Even if your body isn’t flexible or you have never done yoga before, you can learn how to do it easily.”
It is said that aerial yoga was started in 2006 in New York by Michelle Dortinac, a yoga instructor and aerial acrobatic dancer, by combining hammock yoga and anti-gravity yoga, which are similar types of yoga exercise.
Manao underwent training given by Dortinac when she visited Japan. She then received a certificate as an aerial yoga instructor.
I learned simple aerial yoga poses at Manao’s class. To get into a handstand pose, sit on the hammock as if it were a swing. Bend your back a bit backward, open your legs while slowly leaning back further. While hanging upside down, hook your ankles around the upper part of the hammock.
“By doing this, you can naturally stand on your hands. It puts much less burden on your body than doing it on the floor,” Manao said.
I did it myself. At first, I felt a bit uneasy when I had my whole body supported by the hammock. However, as I got used to it, I felt my body became lighter and lighter. I also felt the force on my waist and shoulders being released.
“Many people get addicted to the feeling of floating,” Manao said. It’s understandable. I also felt the muscles of my back stretch effortlessly and my posture became better.
Aerial yoga uses hammocks made exclusively for the exercise. Using the hammock, slowly move your body to stretch the muscles and sinews and train your core muscles during a 60-minute session.
Also, with your body wrapped by the hammock, stretch your entire body or meditate quietly by lying horizontally. I did it myself and found it was surprisingly relaxing and soothing to have my body wrapped with soft cloth. It feels so good that some students even fall asleep while in the pose, Manao said.
“There are very few chances to be wrapped by cloth or enjoy the feel of floating in the air. I hope people enjoy the extraordinary experience,” Manao said.
Use a towel at home
It’s difficult to do aerial yoga at home. So Manao taught me an exercise with elements of aerial yoga and how to use a towel, instead of a hammock. It’s suited for a pair.
First, one person stands behind another. The rear person holds both ends of a long towel. The front person puts their arms behind them and hooks them through the towel. Then, the rear person pulls the towel lightly. While the towel being pulled, the front person breathes deeply three times, and then the towel is loosened. Do the process twice.
“It’s a stretching exercise for expanding the front person’s chest. It’s easier to do with two people rather than doing it alone. It helps ease shoulder and back stiffness,” Manao said.Speech