Taking Yoga to the Next Level

Yoga has a rich history. It is one of the oldest fitness practices, developed in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. And while yoga remains a staple on almost every Group X schedule, various forms and practices of yoga have evolved over time.

Aerial Yoga is one of the newer formats gaining momentum in the health and fitness realm. Using silk hammocks as support, aerial yoga participants move through various yoga poses, suspended in the air. The hammock allows users to increase flexibility and range of motion, while building strength and receiving a full body workout.

Due to the increasing popularity of the format, the American Council on Exercise conducted a study to examine if aerial yoga is an effective form of exercise. “We noticed that it was gaining traction,” said Cedric Bryant, ACE’s chief science officer. “We looked at and wanted to quantify what effects participants would see on a cardiovascular level.”

Sixteen healthy women between the ages of 18 and 45 participated in the study. Bryant explained the women initially performed a graded exercise test on a treadmill to determine maximum heart rate, oxygen uptake and various other elements. Throughout the study, the women participated in three, 50-minute aerial yoga sessions per week, while wearing a calorimetric measurement system and a heart-rate monitor.

Aerial Yoga

According to Bryant, the study revealed numerous health benefits in the practice of aerial yoga. “After six weeks participants saw a change in various elements,” explained Bryant. “Individuals experienced a reduction in body weight and body fat, an increase in VO2 and HCL cholesterol, which is good cholesterol. They also had improved cardio respiratory function and reduced risk factors of cardiovascular heart disease.”

With all of these positive benefits, aerial yoga might be the perfect addition to your health club’s programming schedule. In one 50-minute session, participants burn around 6.5 calories per minute, meaning about 320 calories per class. And while using silk hammocks to move through yoga poses might seem like a challenge, Bryant explained because the silks provide different levels of support, all fitness levels can participate.

However, Bryant advised that the format might not be for everyone. “As a point of caution, much of the activity is suspended and participants are upside down,” he added. “So those who have certain health issues or are pregnant should consult a doctor before participating.”

Bryant encourages health club owners and operators to give an aerial yoga program a try. “It is an activity that all participants found to be an enjoyable challenge, which is always good in a gym environment,” he said. “Aerial yoga produces meaningful results to the member base and provides a unique challenge. Many women also talked about how relaxing they found it, so there are many benefits in offering it.”

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