Aerial Yoga at OM Factory NYC : A Blissful Treat from Lululemon

One of my favorite things is to always keep an eye on the Lululemon community calendars for each of the stores in the city, because sometimes you find a gem in there. I DO wish all of NYC’s different Lulu calendars were combined but really, a little leg work never killed anyone! My favorite free “community sweat” classes, though, are always the ones they occasionally hold in the featured studios. This week, Lululemon Union Square’s class turned out to be an Aerial Yoga class at OM Factory! Score!

I have been dying to try out OM Factory’s Aerial Yoga for a while. The studio was already 3/4 full by the time I filled out my waiver/newcomer form and made my way into the room. The room was set up with 15 (or so) bright orange silk “hammocks” – I grabbed one of the mats hanging on the wall & took a spot in the back of the room under one of the silks. The class filled up quickly and a few people had to be turned away since with any Aerial class, once the hammocks are filled, that is it. No squeezing in at the last minute in a class like this! While I waited for class to begin, I sat in my hammock and swung, taking in the bright pretty space. OM really is a lovely little peaceful gem in the craziness that is Union Square.

The instructor for our class, Sarah Sadie Newett, came around to each of us before the class started and had us stand by our silks to get measured. The hammocks, when pulled taught, are supposed to be at your hipbones. That way when you fold over it, the hammock will support your weight in various poses. Our class was billed as a “foundations class” – which meant that there was a lot of stopping to have the next thing explained to us. While we listened, Sarah often had us swing in our hammocks, which is really just a seriously soothing way to have anything explained to you. Ages ago I took some Aerial Yoga classes, so it didn’t really bother me that I couldn’t always see what was being demonstrated up at the front of the room. We did a lot of moves with one leg suspended out in the hammock, which is a fun way to explore your balance and go far deeper into the poses.

In every Aerial yoga class though, I just am chomping at the bit to do my absolute favorite thing – hang upside down. Almost every other pose is just what I have to do to get to flip upside-down in those awesome hammocks. I could be really happy hanging upside down every single day. In an “Aerial Silks” class, the fabric is in two sections and being upside down is a feat. but because the silks in Aerial Yoga is a one piece hammock, the upside-down move is awesomely easy. It cradles as you flip back and you can either straddle your legs out or my favorite, to wrap them around the silks. It is so oddly comfortable and freeing. While we were upside-down, Sarah also had us try a handstand – I was stunned when I pushed right up into a full handstand and could hold it! The silks wrapping around you give just enough support to keep you steady and straight, which is sort of the key in a handstand. So freaking cool. The class wound down with a few supported down dogs and then it was finally time for Savasana. Aerial Yoga’s version is amazing – you spread the fabric out, sitting on it and pulling it up around your shoulders before laying back and sort of inchworming yourself out to a fully extend position. It is like being in a cocoon, swinging freely in the air. It is so weirdly freeing to not feel the ground beneath you, like bobbing on your back in the ocean, just very calming and centering.

Shaking up your routine is such a very good thing. I wouldn’t suggest replacing your favorite yoga flow class with Aerial Yoga, since every one I have ever take has stopped and started a lot – but the special magical moments in those classes really are truly amazing. I am so grateful to Lululemon for their community sweats program that finally got me to a class I’ve been meaning to go to for ages! I’ll definitely be back at the OM Factory soon to get to see the world upside-down again….

Photos of Aerial Yoga from the OM Factory NYC Facebook page. Bottom photo just a little bit of internet goodness.

Getting off the ground is harder than it looks…

It amazes me how there are still parts of Manhattan that I have never been to.Yesterday, I went to just such a place – W. 60th and 11th Ave. – to go to an Aerial Dance Class at the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center. An absolutely gorgeous dance school, the lobby was bright and spacious with all of these ballet-clad kids milling about, getting ready for their next classes. I love when one of these deals leads me to places I would have never known about otherwise.

When I arrived for my “Absolute Beginner” Aerial class, the advanced class was still going on so after stashing my stuff, I went to peer through the studio window. I have wanted to try an Aerial Silks class for years, mostly because of watching people like the ones practicing in that room. Not because they are perfect, but because they look like they are having a grand adventure in the air while practicing to make something beautiful. I don’t watch the Cirque du Soleil and think “oh, I could do that”, but when it is just off from perfect, without the lights and costumes, I watch and think “oh, I WANT to do that!”  While I was waiting, another girl came up to watch and wait for our class too.  She looked like a dancer and we got to talking. She asked me if I had ever done Aerial before and I was quick to say no, since really, I never thought Aerial Yoga, while fun, counted as an actual Aerial class. She hadn’t ever been to this studio but was also quick to point out that she was a beginner because she “had only been doing it for 3 months” which to me means you are NOT an absolute beginner any more, be proud of that, don’t dismiss it!  For a while it looked like we were going to be the only ones in class.

Our teacher for this class was Guinevere DiPiazza who was subbing for the normal teacher. She was a beautiful, tiny bundle of dancer muscle, with a huge broad smile and I knew I would like her. Class started with warm up conditioning routine and it was the first and only time in the class I felt even remotely like I had a clue or any coordination. During the warm up, another student showed up, who was obviously a regular and greeted warmly as she came in “Monkey!” and it was at that moment that I fully realized that I was going to be the super clueless one. Normally, silks are shared by a group of 3-4 students who take turns, but since our class was so small we all had our own silks to work with, a rare special treat.  For me though, the bigger, more amazing stroke of luck was that this particular class had a teacher’s assistant – the unfailingly patient Stephanie. As the only one who had never done silks before, she worked with me over and over on the basics. It took what seemed like forever to get the basic foot lock to do the splits in the air trick but I did finally mange, a few times even! My favorite moves though were the inversions. I REALLY like being upside down. The first inversion was the easiest, since it involved tying the silks into a loop that you sort of rolled back through coming into a wide straddle. I managed to do that easily, and it made me super happy. The second version was without the silks tied, where you held on at shoulder height, arms bent, and flipped your butt over your head straightening your arms as you went over, which made me feel a little like Spiderman. I could get there, but moving on FROM there, was out of the question. Butt overhead, holding on for dear life, check. Pretty and graceful moves after that? Nope. Apparently though, just getting to that point in my first class was a really good thing – since I heard the two teachers excitedly pointing out to one another that “she didn’t even need a spotter on her first try!” I was like oh, they are talking about me! In a class where I mostly felt like a bumbling fool it was nice to know that I really didn’t do so badly for my first time.

I definitely want to go back though, because even though I was terrible at it, it was ridiculously fun!

photo: Stephanie gracefully demonstrating the basic climbing move as Guinevere explained the technique to us…. I never made it remotely that high but I did at least get off the ground!