James Dickinson - Jan 08 2021
What type of Yoga do you teach and how does it differ from the traditional forms of Yoga?
I specialise in Aerial Yoga. It can be a little intimidating for many people as they think that the aerial silks have more in common with circus tricks. In actual fact the practice is heavily rooted in traditional Yoga which goes hand in hand with the way I studied, in India using a mat. As much as there are many ‘fun’ tricks and flips, it very much incorporates yogic staples such as pranayama, breathwork and meditation. Many of the postures are instantly recognisable as they have been adapted from the mat to the air. The hammock is simply a prop that helps you get deeper into the postures and since it supports your body weight in fact some of them actually become easier than they are on the mat.
Completely off the cuff, but would you mind providing a quick demonstration of what Aerial Yoga is?
In what way are certain postures easier?
As the hammock takes your body weight and offers additional support, inversions are much easier to hold for longer periods of time while at the same time allowing decompression of the spine. It is so much safer than holding a headstand or handstand using traditional techniques and yet similar health benefits can be achieved. It is literally the deepest stretch that you can achieve, allowing for full decompression of the vertebrae and there is no weight on the neck.
How did you come to Yoga?
I had a really nasty accident when I was a teenager and broke my leg and after a great deal of intensive physio, my physiotherapist suggested Yoga. I was amazed how quickly I progressed and not only was I getting my flexibility back I enjoyed the focus on the strengthening the mind through meditation. When Aerial came along, I thought that it was incredible and felt that I was deepening my practice, getting lost in the activity and letting go of everything else that is going on.
What made you focus on Aerial Yoga so much?
I had such an inspirational teacher who used to teach at the Yoga Studios. I cannot speak highly enough of her and when I had completed my Yoga teacher training in India, I attended one of her classes on a whim. After a single class I was hooked and started doing it around 3 times a week but I never in my wildest dreams though that I would start teaching. Celina was such a wonderful teacher and gently suggested that I consider it. During the lockdown I immediately thought that it was a great opportunity to do the Aerial Yoga training and it all just came from there. I had the time and I did it in my home studio with a hammock rigged to a beam in the ceiling through online classes. I found it inspirational the way that Celina taught Aerial Yoga using traditional Yogic techniques and I didn’t want to focus on acrobatics.
Do you find teaching over the internet is a productive experience? Do you think that it is a positive thing?
If you had spoken to me this time last year, I would not have understood why anyone would do that and you can’t replace being in a studio. If there is anything that this last year has taught us, it is about adaptability. There has been a bit of a culture shock going from a beautiful Yoga Shala in India to a converted garage with my laptop. But within the community in which I teach, we have all realised how much we need Yoga. I will always love teaching in a studio, the shared energy, the social aspects and the atmosphere but I will also carry-on teaching online. It is just so much easier for people attending my classes as they don’t have to go out in the rain, worry about childcare or about the time taken to travel to the studio. I can just open up my laptop and teach a Yoga class, I think that it is amazing and I love it.
Do you still teach Yoga on a mat?
Yes, that is something that I need on a personal level and I also still very much enjoy teaching several different styles on a mat. I mostly do a traditional Hatha style of Yoga even though much of my training was on the Ashtanga primary series. Edoardo was my teacher who also teaches classes at the Yoga Studio. But I also enjoy restorative Yoga and meditation, aspects of both tend to work their way into Arial Yoga. With mat based Yoga, there is a large amount of push motion but Aerial fills the missing link with a variety of poses that use a pull motion. Both types of practice compliment each other and so I have felt it important to keep both types of practices going.
Is it for all ages?
A few people I teach are in their 60s and it is all about overcoming the hurdles in your mind. It looks a lot more daunting than it actually it. It is all about trusting the hammock and being accepting of the challenges that Aerial Yoga brings. There is occasional laughter in the class and the atmosphere is usually more light-hearted than traditional Yoga.
Is it for men too?
I still get quite a few men coming along and although many consider Yoga to be a female dominated thing but we are seeing more and more mixed classes. Men enjoy it and tend to focus more on upper body strength.
Can Yoga supplement different sports?
Definitely and vice versa. Through Yoga your muscles will lengthen and relax, then other forms of exercise will tighten your muscles. There is this constant balancing act of keeping the body in good condition. But Yoga goes so much deeper than that, including elements of philosophy, meditation and increasing cognitive function.