I recently wrote about trying new things, attempting the unfamiliar, and releasing all inhibitions for the sake of personal growth, be it emotional or physical. In other words, I got myself on a trampoline for a cardio dance class and squatted along to blaring hits in the midst of club lights and disco balls.
I decided to continue following my own advice and sign myself up for yet another (slightly intimidating) fitness class: aerial yoga at OM Factory in Union Square (873 Broadway). For those unfamiliar with the specialized practice, aerial yoga combines “classical asanas with elements of aerial acrobatics” with the help of a soft fabric — or ‘hammock,’ as it is often referred to during classes – suspended from the ceiling.
Sure, I had reservations about wrapping myself up in cloth and hanging from the ceiling for 75 minutes, but my worries were quickly quelled when I got to sit down and talk with experienced instructor Amanda Winkler before taking her Level 1 (Foundations) class last week. The welcoming Winkler described aerial yoga as “invigorating, creative, and serene,” and explained to me that the practice is comparable to Vinyasa yoga but also appeals to non-yogis thanks to the inclusion of a novel prop, the hammock.
“It’s an apparatus to play with,” Winkler said.
Play certainly was a theme throughout the class, though the presence of two assistants — instructors whose sole job is to wander the room and help spot and adjust students in need — assured me that safety and comfort are high priorities at OM Factory as well.
Image via OM Factory NYC
The components of OM Factory’s aerial yoga Foundations class were not entirely foreign to me, though. Winkler had us in remixed versions of familiar poses, like warrior 2 and plank, each of which was enhanced by the incorporation of the fabric; in warrior 2, our arms pushed down against the resistant hammock so as to maximize the strengthening effects of the pose. In plank, our feet rested in the loop of the fabric so only our palms pressed against the floor. Even in a Level 1 introductory class, first-time aerial yoga students were able to (albeit slowly and shakily) invert themselves into the position pictured above.
As for the kind of workout one can expect to get from aerial yoga? It is a total upper-body strengthener: the pull-ups we did on the fabric made getting dressed a struggle for me for the first five days following the class. Sore doesn’t even begin to explain the sensation I felt in my upper arms and shoulders after leaving OM Factory, but my inability to take a cookbook down from a high-up shelf the next evening felt like a reward more than anything.
Image via Betches Love This
Perhaps the most gratifying reward comes not after, but at the end of OM Factory’s aerial yoga class, when students assume savasana in the hammock (as pictured above). The classic final resting pose was elevated to new heights (pun intended) with the addition of the hammock: I closed my eyes — limbs outstretched in a soft web of support — and swung ever so slightly some three feet above the ground in a blissful cocoon all my own. You can find a full list of OM Factory’s class offerings, schedule, and rates here.