I make my way to Bree Mcilroy’s Loving Earth Yoga and Wellness Studio in Fort Kochi to explore Aerial Yoga. The New Zealander has recently added this Americanized version of calisthenics to the different Yoga versions she offers. Aerial Yoga combines Pilates, dance and Yoga. Earlier Bree had introduced vegan fare to the city and with it a lifestyle of slow food and mindful fitness.
The studio’s white walls and baby blue doors and windows are inviting. Bright daylight drops in strands from glass tiles on the roof, with eight gray and baby blue silks (hammocks made with stretchable fabric) that hang from the high-ceilinged truss. Eight participants- seven women, one man- stand on blue mats beside their designated silks. A gentle seaborne breeze fills the hall.
Irena Mohini, an Indian classical dancer from Belarus, is assisting Bree in the class.
Tall and lissome Irena begins by asking students to sit on the edge of the silk, close their eyes, breathe deeply and to keep their spine straight. They are instructed to slowly bring their knees to their chest and sit astride the silk loop. . The exercises begin and participants do several poses- Cupid, Turban, Back Straddle, Hip Hang and Butterfly to name a few.
Silk as prop
Practitioners use the silk as prop to lift themselves, turn, bend, swing and sway in motions that require the body to balance and stabilize in Yogic poses in air. While Irena conducts and guides, Bree moves from one to another hammock correcting the postures of the students.
Shalabhasana (locust pose) has the learners flat on their belly in the hammock. A strenuous pose, it requires them to slightly raise their legs, lift their heads and exhale, all the while balancing in the silk cocoon. “We use the material to help exercise. The support from the silk allows the spine to decompress and stretch. It is about finding stillness, ”says Bree a 650 hours certified Yoga teacher who does Yoga poses in its aerial version before doing them on the mat. She explains aerial yoga as a whole body workout that not only helps one develop strength but also surrender and relax.
Irena Mohini in the silk and Bree Mcilroy
The Turban Pose “a really cute one”, has the head fixed on the silk loop with legs on the ground. The body sways from side to side, making small movements. The camel pose follows.
In an hour the group is sweating but is radiant at having gone through a taxing but thrilling regimen. “It is like trapeze art,” says a mother of a new born, wishing to get back in shape.
The session ends with Shavasana, (Corpse pose), “everyone’s favorite”, as it has the group relaxing after a strenuous workout.
The finale is offering gratitude to the silk, to others and to yourself.
As new learners fear the hammock of tipping Bree explains “we carefully explain entries and exits; the silks are wrapped around body parts holding using places which allow us to defy gravity. ”
Arunima Gupta, a contemporary dancer and part of the class found pushing her limits higher. “Being suspended in a Yoga posture is truly liberating,” she said.
A drop-in class comes for ₹ 800 and a one month (four classes) course is for ₹ 2600.