If you’ve ever suffered from back pain, chances are you’ve heard of inversion therapy. After your visit to the doctor, you looked up inversion tables online and thought, “no way, that looks too crazy!” or “what if I get stuck upside-down when I’m home alone?” Besides, they don’t look that comfortable anyway. Usually, they are stiff, flat, plastic boards!
Well, aerial yoga hammocks are here to help take you from pain to empowerment in a safe, fun, and effective way to treat back pain.
So, what is an aerial yoga hammock?
A yoga hammock is a part of the broader style of yoga called aerial yoga. This form of yoga has been popularized within the last decade and is also known as flying yoga or antigravity yoga. Some people look at it and think they can’t do it because it looks like something out of the circus! But the hammock actually makes yoga poses you may have thought impossible, possible!
Even if you suffer from back pain.
Aerial yoga uses silk hammocks, also called aerial hammocks, elevated in the air off the ground, to take the physical practice of yoga to new heights. Not only does this mean it can challenge the body in new ways physically, but there are also many therapeutic benefits of using the yoga hammock. It is also beginner friendly.
Here at Rising Wings Aerial Yoga, I use yoga hammocks made out of low-stretch nylon tricot aerial silk fabric, which is soft and forgiving. I love how you can spread the fabric out like a nurturing cocoon and feel the buoyancy of the fabric. I also prefer silk fabric versus the yoga swing or trapeze because it retains its connection to the fun of circus arts while blending with the mindfulness of yoga! Make sure to set up the center loop of the hammock at hip height, so that when you invert yourself, aka go upside-down, your head is off the floor. This part is important for safety purposes!
Without further adieu, let’s take a look at some specific ways in which a yoga hammock can help with back pain!
1. Decompress the Spine
As I mentioned earlier, you can use a yoga hammock to decompress the spine like an inversion table… Only it’s softer, more forgiving, less scary, and more fun! There are many moves performed in an aerial hammock where your full body is inverted in the upside-down position.
How To Do The Inverted Butterfly
One of these moves is a basic inversion called The Butterfly. To perform this move, put the hammock on like a backpack and push the bottom part of the hammock down to your hips. Stand on your tip-toes and begin to lean back, moving your hands up to either side of the hammock. Spread your legs out wide so they straddle either side of the hammock, then bend your knees to hook the legs around the fabric as you go upside-down. Now you are locked in and can let go!
It is important that the hammock rests in the right position here in order for it to be effective. If it is too high, it is not as comfortable and the decompression effect is limited. If it is too low, then you run the risk of falling out of the hammock. Same goes for if you get the coordination of this exercise wrong- so always make sure the legs go WIDE and not on the inside so that safety is always your #1 priority.
This is a basic inversion that many other moves and stretching poses can flow in and out of. However, the main benefit of this pose is that it decompresses the spine!
What this means is that it creates space between your vertebrae.
When the spine is compressed, this can cause the vertebrae to hit or squeeze the inter-vertebral discs, which can radiate pain through the limbs or cause herniations. While aerial yoga is no substitute for medical treatment, it can help to relieve pain and pressure in the spine associated with these conditions. A healthy spine is a happy spine!
We cover exactly how to receive the best decompression benefits in our online training courses.
2. Strengthen the Lower Back and Core
Some people associate working out with being sore and think it’s unpleasant. However, being sore does not mean you are injuring yourself! This is what keeps many people from going to the gym and working out when they are in pain or injured because they don’t want to experience more pain. An injury requires rehabilitation (after rest), which means the muscles in the area need to be strengthened again. There will be initial soreness, but with time, you will get stronger and feel better.
If you experience back pain, you need to strengthen the core and back muscles.
People are often sore the first time they try an aerial hammock! But this is not a sign to give up. It is simply your body adjusting to a new way of moving. Aerial yoga is a low-impact form of exercise and you don’t even have to go to the gym! The aerial hammock uses gravity and your own bodyweight suspended in the air. It creates a completely unique workout that can target hard-to-reach areas that may not have ever worked before.
Variations on back exercises and spine strengtheners such as Locust Pose, Flying Plank, and Inverted Sit-Ups will strengthen the entire body with a target on core. A strong core is another key component to a healthy back because the abdominal muscles support the lower spine.
The aerial hammock is for more than just stretching. Strengthening is an important aspect that will help to relieve lower back pain, which aerial yoga supports.
How to Do Flying Locust
Place the hammock in front of you at hip height. Walk two steps forward and fold over the hammock so that it lies in your hip creases with your hands on the floor. You will be upside-down. Hang here for a moment to decompress the spine.
Then, reach your hands up high on either side of the hammock and begin lifting your head and legs through the muscles of your back. This is your Flying Locust. Hold for 5 breaths and then release.
3. Improve Spinal Mobility
With strengthening also comes the flip side, stretching! Literally, when you’re on the aerial hammock! Stretching on a yoga hammock can be a fun way to heal and alleviate back pain issues. No more boring stretching with the aerial yoga hammock.
Because you can fly! Poses where the limbs are elevated off the ground create a deeper stretch than usual ground-based stretching. Because your body will be challenged in new ways, new pathways of moving and stretching will open for you.
For example, when the leg is lifted in the hammock for a hamstring stretch, the hamstrings and lower back get a much deeper stretch through a forward-folding movement. Hamstring tightness is often related to lower back pain, so when the hamstrings begin to open up, the lower back begins to feel better.
Our spine is the center of the body, so when we move it in new ways, the spine becomes more fluid and mobile. Fluidity is just as important as strength, and the aerial hammock can help you achieve harmony in both so there is balance within the body.
In addition to stretching, balance is another key factor that can help improve spinal mobility. Again, with the focus on a part of the body being elevated or inverted off the ground, it will challenge the rest of the body to work slightly harder than normal. This makes all the muscles around the spine much more supportive.
Choosing the Right Yoga Hammock
It’s so fun to choose your aerial hammock because they come in a variety of colors! Pick your favorite soothing color that will help heal your pain or empower you. There are many you can purchase online such as retailers like Uplift Active and use my code LINDSAYNOVA to save 10%.
Be sure to look at all of the safety requirements of the equipment and how to hang it to ensure it can hold a minimum weight load of at least 1000 lbs- the more the better. Learn how to make the knot for rigging your aerial yoga hammock here.
Remember you can start slow in the beginning, it’s important to do what is comfortable for you! If inverting is too much, sometimes the simplicity of just floating off the ground in a seated position while feeling weightless is enough. This in and of itself can be very relaxing, which can help soothe any sore back. Just remember to breathe!
No matter what you do, the breath is always king when it comes to practicing yoga. So while the yoga hammock can enhance all of these wonderful healing qualities, it will become magnetized even more when you breathe deeply into them, because this will bring fresh blood flow and oxygen into your body.
Experience the therapeutic benefits of aerial yoga classes for treating back pain in our online course here or join the Rising Wings Aerial Yoga Online Teacher Training here to share it with others!
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