Pounding the pavements or hitting the gym equipment after the usual end-of-year festive feasting is not everyone's idea of fun. Corazon Miller looked at some quirkier options to get moving. In part two she joins the aerial yogis in their silk hammocks.

Cocooned in a large swathe of white silk hanging from the ceiling, hidden away from much of the outside world, I felt much like I imagined a developing butterfly would in its chrysalis stage.

As I hung inside, completely at ease, I could see first-hand the restorative benefits aerial yogis rave about.

This mid-air exercise regime draws on a mix of yoga, Pilates and aerobic principles that promises to tone, strengthen and stretch participants in the calming environment of the giant silky hammock.


The instructor at Altitude Pole studios on the North Shore, Lien Ta, said the support offered by the large suspended hammocks made for a restorative, gentle alternative to traditional yoga.

While undertaking training at an anti-gravity academy in Sydney she met a lot of yoga instructors who'd been on the verge of quitting as a result of the toll years of practice took. "This is gentler, allowing for inversion, taking away from the weight in your body, allowing the body to extend."

Aerial yogi Davina Richards has attended class at a Christchurch studio.

"I do anti-gravity yoga because it's fun and it's a new way to cultivate strength and flexibility."

Although she hadn't been to classes over the winter, Ms Richards planned to get back into it more regularly and buy her own hammock once the bank balance allowed it.

"My back is buggered now I stopped."

Ms Ta said this high-flying form of yoga was created by American performer and acrobat Christopher Harrison almost 10 years ago, with a view to giving worn-out athletes a gentler, more restorative workout.

Its arrival in New Zealand has been more recent with few studios around the country offering it.

For complete beginners the intro level is recommended to get you going.

Indeed swinging and stretching one's body in the hammock was harder than I'd first expected.

Corazon tries what she says is the most challenging of the aerial yoga poses. Photo / Greg Bowker
Corazon tries what she says is the most challenging of the aerial yoga poses. Photo / Greg Bowker

But once a trust in the silk is developed, it is easy enough to manipulate through the poses with supernatural names like Dracula, a pose that involved me face down, hanging parallel to the floor, or angel, a chilled-out sitting pose with arms spread out on either side.

The toughest part was the one that had me completely upside down, while my legs wrapped around the hammock's arms in a triangular sort of pose. For a while I couldn't quite tell up from down and needed the instructor to come and give me a lift back up.

I certainly found it to be lighter on the shoulders than the more traditional forms of yoga and being rocked like a baby in the hammock during the chill-out time at the end was rather enjoyable after a long week at work.

Verdict: A surreal way to escape the world while giving arms and legs a good stretch - a good complement to more intense cardio workouts.

About aerial yoga

• Developed by former gymnast and dancer Christopher Harrison in the 1970s.

• A mix of Pilates, yoga and aerobics supported by a large silk hammock.

• Improves strength and flexibility, with zero stress on the back and joints.

• Good stress relief.

• Best done on an empty stomach.