Attempting Aerial Yoga

Boitumelo Maswabi
DEFYING GRAVITY: Quite calming but takes getting used to

Taking fitness and wellness to greater heights

Encouraged to try out yoga 2 years ago by a friend who had read about my near death experience with Covid-19, Yours Truly went searching for ‘easy’ yoga clips on YouTube, and did try it out for a month.

Although I enjoyed it a great deal as the benefits were plain to see, when I reached the more complex and intimidating poses, I reverted to walking and climbing stairs at the stadium, practical options for the summer months.

However, winter’s making its presence felt and so Voice Woman’s quest to for fitness, wellness and perfect health this time led her to an indoor workout at SLV Yoga House in the high-end suburb of Phakalane.

Established in May 2019 by Samantha Vermeulen, an independent Yoga Instructor born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, SLV Yoga House is a welcoming and inclusive Yoga studio, which offers daily small and intimate group classes, private classes, kids’ group classes as well as corporate group classes.

Attempting Aerial Yoga

The petite and personable Vermeulen is a qualified instructor who has endured RYT200 hours of Vinyasa teacher training, 30 hours kids yoga teacher training, 30 hours pregnancy yoga teacher training at Wellness Connection in Cape Town, as well as 50 hours aerial yoga teacher training at The Yoga Mala, also in that beautiful coastal city.

Before beginning our aerial yoga session, Vermeulen explains: “The abbreviation SLV stands for Soul Life Vision, but also happens to be short for my name; as well, my late parent’s names are incorporated. At SLV Yoga House, we provide a fun and challenging yoga experience that cultivates community, courage, and compassion on and off the mat or in your hammock.”

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Speaking about her journey to becoming an aerial yoga teacher, the soft-spoken Vermeulen reminds me that she first had to complete my 200 hours of training to become a registered yoga teacher.

“While doing my training, I got introduced to the hammocks and immediately fell in love with aerial yoga or ‘fly yoga’. I immediately knew I would want to teach aerial yoga to adults and kids,” she says, and explains furthers, “Aerial Yoga is a type of yoga developed by Michelle Dortignac in 2006, who combined traditional yoga poses, Pilates, and dance with the use of a hammock. It offers more support than a normal floor yoga class, the hammock supports half your body weight making it 50% easier for inversions or upside-down movements.”

Although excited to begin my first attempt on the hammocks, the idea of defying gravity with all of my size 40 weight, hanging downside up, was quite daunting, especially because I realized in crunch time that I had not prepared myself psychologically.

But my lovely instructor was reassuring.

“You should take it easy; each person must practice with awareness of their body. If it is your first time, take it easy, take some breaks, take longer rest between the poses and stop when it starts to feel uncomfortable and relax by lying down in your hammock or on your yoga mat. Aerial Yoga is hard as you will at times be upside down with your weight fully supported in the fabric.”

Attempting Aerial Yoga

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Indeed the hammock itself feels super comfortable and calming.

The amazingly agile teacher says for those, like me, who struggle with the hammock, they offer a low suspension class where the hammock setting is lower: “You can be comfortable and get used to being supported by your hammock, and experience a full exercise still being supported by your hammock. Up to now “touch wood” none of my students or myself have been injured due to aerial yoga even with plus-size ladies entering our studio. I normally advise students to focus, listen to instruction and trust your hammock, but also have fun at the same time.”

And fun it was, until I began to feel dizzy and started to worry that the contents of my tummy would threaten to exit through the mouth.

I should’ve steered clear of lunch.

My body and brain needed a bit more time to get used the sling.

I mean, the last time I dangled head down was in childhood when I used to climb up very tall trees in Lobatse.

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Vermeulen remarks that unlike adults, kids are usually confident on the hammocks, some of them special-needs children, including those with autism.

“Kids are always very enthusiastic and you should see how their faces light up when they go on the hammocks. Any yoga activity provides a calming sensory experience for children even for special needs children, motor skills – gross motor skills are a given, breathing technics, mindful movements, focus, memory, self-esteem, flexibility, and strength.”

Last year, Vermeulen worked closely with the Miss Botswana organisation in the lead up to the finale.

“I was approached by Michelle Phetlhe of ESTeRES boutique, who was involved with recruiting the 15 Miss Botswana finalists in 2022 to sponsor an Aerial Yoga session for the lovely ladies. It was an absolutely honour to host the beautiful finalists,” she says, and adds that SLV Yoga House also offers various classes for both adults and kids, daily, as well as pre-natal and post-natal yoga.

Vinyasa, Hatha, Ashtanga and Yin Yoga are the styles that SLV Yoga House specialises in, and Vermeulen concludes by sharing some of the benefits of doing yoga: “It deepens stretches, relieves joint pressure and spinal compression that floor workouts can trigger, releases tension, helps with balance, improves flexibility and stability, enhances core strength, breath awareness and is also good for weight loss.”

Still aching everywhere from last week’s session, hopefully engaging my midriff for another 3 or 4 months will ensure I enjoy summer healthier. As the local saying goes, “summer bodies are made in winter!”

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