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Finding Inner-Peace From Above (Aerial Yoga) with Sarah Wollschlager
Jivamukti Yoga Center Jersey City
171 Newark Ave., 2nd Floor
Jersey City, NJ 07302
201-993-1110

Tue, 4:00 PM To 5:15 PM
Intermediate

Having never been to an aerial yoga class before I have to admit that I was a little nervous. My idea of what an aerial yoga class would entail involved a lot of flipping and twisting around in the fabric, and I think, ultimately, that’s what aerial yoga can be, but as with most things, before you can learn how to run you have to know how to crawl. Thankfully this was exactly how Sarah Wollschlager structured the class.

While all yoga classes require some sort of instructor/student interaction before the class begins, in an aerial yoga this is even more imperative because you have to first determine if the fabric you will be using is at the right height for you (in line with your pelvis), and if it isn’t, the instructor has to climb a step ladder to adjust the carabiners. This type of individual adjustment can take a little while to complete, which can leave the room sort of awkward and quiet but Sarah didn’t pay any mind to that. While she was adjusting all of our fabrics she shared a story about a yoga celebrity sighting (Alec Baldwin’s wife, Hilaria Thomas) and how she wished she had thought in that moment to invite her to one of her aerial classes. This sort of uninhibited musing speaks volumes to how comfortable an instructor is in front of a group of students, which happily set the tone for the class ahead.

Interestingly, we needed a mat for this class. The mat was put on the floor under the fabric. We began class on the mat in Sukhasana for a short and simple, yet traditional Jivamukti dharma talk that centered on the idea of gratitude, a subject I am always happy to be reminded to internalize. From there Sarah told us to open our “beautiful” eyes and lay down on our backs. We lifted our legs in the air and practiced hooking our feet in the fabric, and then locking our feet in a ballet first position, with our toes pointing out. By doing this we not only began to stretch our back but we also began to get a sense of the fabric. Next we did some more supine twists on the mat to open up our backs, moving to table top for some basic Cat and Cows, then pushing up to a Downward Dog.  

After this brief warm-up we returned to hands and knees and kicked back one leg at a time, hooking it in the fabric and then lunging forward with our hands on the floor, which was a really great stretch for my hip flexor. We then experimented with a floating Plank by picking up our foot that was still on the floor and bringing it to meet our other foot in the fabric. Sarah encouraged us to lean forward onto our arms and attempt a Handstand setup. After hooking both feet in the fabric, Sarah led us through some rounds of tucking and untucking our knees while our hands were still on the mat which took a lot of control and core strength.

From there we moved on to standing and Sarah urged us to try jumping through the fabric from behind which required us to grip the fabric firmly in each hand and pull our bodies up (with our knees tucked) and through to the other side of the fabric, the way you might jump through a swing on the playground (which sounds easy enough in theory, but in practice, is something else altogether, mostly because the fabric is bunchy and it’s easy for your toes to snag on it if your knees aren’t tucked tight enough). Once we settled in with the fabric behind our backs we stood with our feet firmly planted on the ground and took some slight backward bends. Then we sat on the fabric and used it like a swing, pumping our legs and leaning back into the swing.

Sarah encouraged us to take prayer hands (wrapped around the outside and in front of the fabric) and to close our eyes and continue to swing. It was a sort of freeing feeling to swing with my eyes closed like that, knowing that there was someone else swinging on my left and my right, that we were all swinging together. It was during this moment of reflection that Sarah reminded us that we all have access to a deep sense of inner peace within our being and that, while it may be a struggle to access this peace at times, to know in our hearts that it is there and can be made available to us if we try.

Once we hopped off the fabric we did some more core work by sitting back onto the fabric like a chair while it rested on our sacrum. After that we did an inversion using the fabric. With the fabric resting on our sacrum Sarah instructed us to grip the fabric in each hand and began to stretch back while we picked up our feet, putting them in Goddess position wrapped in front of the fabric. We rested upside down their like for a little while and I couldn’t help feeling like a bug of sorts...or a bat, hanging upside down from a tree limb.  

Once I felt comfortable enough in the inversion I was able to release my hands and put them in prayer position and close my eyes. The slight momentum left from getting into the position lingered and I swung lightly forward and back. Here again Sarah called us back to that inner peace, inviting us once again to reconnect with it.

For Savasana we climbed into the fabric and stretched out our legs and laid down like we were in a hammock or a cocoon. We again swung lightly and independently of each other all the while knowing that we were sharing the same space and I did feel grateful.

Drop-in Aerial Yoga classes are $25. Weekday Special: 4pm Aerial Yoga Classes $10 (cash). Jivamukti drop-in classes are $20.

-Jackie Clark for Yoga Sleuth


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