MISSOULA - Yoga is a great way to stretch and move your body, but some folks take it a step further, or really a set upwards, with aerial yoga.
Aerial yoga uses a long silk attached to the ceiling to support someone as they work through yoga poses.
The practice is a fun way to practice yoga while helping combat spine and back injuries and build fundamental strength.
“The silk helps, the hammock helps you to go into postures that you wouldn’t normally be able to habitually on the mat,” Sherika Fernando, owner of Purusa Yoga in Missoula and aerial yoga instructor, says.
As the participant hangs in the fabric, they are able to naturally realign their spine, according to Fernando.
“It’s a complete, just decompression of the body,” she says.
Ilsa Greatorex-Duncan is an aerial fitness instructor at Purusa and a regenerative health practitioner. Her aerial fitness class is similar to aerial yoga but involves more of a physical workout.
“One of the things that I really like to focus on in aerial fitness is building that foundational strength from the ground up while having fun and doing cool stuff in the air,” she says.
When Greatorex-Duncan was younger, she was in five car accidents in one year, causing serious damage to her back. Aerial fitness and yoga has helped in her recovery process.
“For myself, like the inversions and all of those sorts of moves have been so foundational as far as far as like healing my spine,” she says.
Purusa Yoga offers a variety of classes involving the silk. Fernando is a reiki master and helps realign energy waves in the aerial reiki course. Rest-air is a restorative yoga class with the silk and is perfect for beginners. Purusa also offers private and traditional yoga classes.
Fernando opened Purusa Yoga five years ago and has moved through three different locations. She focuses on healing a variety of emotional wounds, such as anxiety, trauma and illness.
“Just gain the tools to be able to cultivate confidence and really feel empowered in their own skin,” she says.
Fernando, who grew up as a competitive gymnast, has been practicing aerial yoga for over 10 years. She says she fell in love with the practice right away.
“It gives me the ability to move and to express myself in a way that you just can’t in your normal day-to-day life,” she says.
And she’s not alone. Participants in the aerial yoga class feel that same addiction to the exercise.
“After like two classes I was like, okay, I’m hooked, I’m going to come every week,” Holli Holmes, a Purusa Yoga member since January, says. “I really like the way that it supports you in a way. Doing yoga on the ground, there’s a lot more weight in your hands and on your body, where with the sling you’re not putting as much weight and pressure.”
Even Brandi Thompson, who teaches traditional yoga and tried aerial yoga for the first time on Tuesday, is already thrilled with the practice.
“Most of the time, or all of the time, for most of us humans, we’re on the ground, so this opportunity just gives a different perspective,” Thomson says.
Sarah Davidson and Virginia Morrison started practicing aerial yoga together about a year ago. They say it isn’t as scary as it seems, and hope everyone feels confident enough to try it out.
“It's very freeing and empowering and kind of just see what you can do, what your body can do,” Davidson says.
“It’s like you’re flying, and it’s definitely disconcerting at first, but it’s really fun,” Morrison says.
Fernando agrees and says aerial yoga is meant to be accessible, whether you’ve tried traditional yoga before or not.
“It will give you a whole new dimension to your practice, but it will also help you to realize that you can do more than you ever thought possible,” she says.
Purusa offers a one-time pass for aerial yoga, as well as monthly memberships, five-class packages, and student discounts.