How Aerial Yoga Affects Heart Health
Aerial yoga is an alternative form of this ancient practice that literally lifts you off the ground onto an entirely different plane. For those who are curious about aerial yoga or who have tried it, you may be pleased to hear that it can have a positive effect on your heart health.
While traditional forms of yoga involve poses that typically include keeping at least one foot or another part of the body in contact with the floor or ground, aerial yoga takes those poses up into the air with the use of circus hammocks. These hammocks, which are made of soft, high-density nylon material, are secured by carabineers, straps, and support chains in the ceiling and can support more than one ton.
During an aerial yoga class (once you learn the basics), you can expect to do various yoga poses or modified versions of them while using the hammock for support. The poses may include simple stretches while sitting or reclining in the hammock or hanging upside down while you grab your feet, ankles, or thighs for balance.
Aerial yoga study of heart health
Numerous studies have been conducted on the health benefits of traditional forms of yoga, but aerial yoga has not been evaluated in a scientific study. Thus a team at Western State Colorado University, led by Lance C. Dalleck, PhD, set out to analyze the health effects of both a single aerial yoga session and a six-week program.
The study, commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) involved 16 healthy, physically active females (18-45 years). Before they started participating in aerial yoga, the team gathered information about body weight, body-fat percentage, heart rate, oxygen uptake, blood pressure, fasting lipids and glucose, and waist circumference from each volunteer.
Here’s what the researchers found after evaluating a single 50-minute session and six weeks (three 50-minute sessions per week):
- A single session burns an average of 320 calories and provides cardiovascular effects associated with low- to moderate-intensity exercise
- After six weeks, the participants showed significant improvements in body weight, systolic blood pressure, waist circumference, high-density lipoprotein, percentage of body fat, and maximal oxygen uptake, and modest improvements in triglycerides
- The authors indicated that the combination of these improvements suggested the volunteers had reduced their risk for heart attack or other cardiovascular events by about 10 percent
Other things to know about aerial yoga
If you are intrigued by aerial yoga, be sure to get instructions from a certified instructor. Don’t be afraid to ask for the credentials of any teacher you are considering and to talk to others who have had sessions with the individual.
Although aerial yoga involves suspending yourself off the ground, the distance is typically quite small (about 3 feet), which helps minimize the possibility of injury. You also should never practice aerial yoga alone.
Because your body’s relationship with gravity is different in aerial yoga than in the traditional forms, your muscles may work harder, especially your core muscles. Some people also find they can experience greater flexibility because they can achieve better stretching with aerial yoga.
Aerial yoga is not for everyone. Anyone who is pregnant, who has undergone recent eye surgery, or who has an eye disease, vertigo, bone conditions, high or low blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, any condition that blocks the nasal passages, or prosthetic hips or knees should likely find another form of exercise.
Dalleck LC, Green DJ. ACE-sponsored research: can aerial yoga take your workouts to another level? ProSource 2016 Jan