Hammocks get people hung up on aerial yoga

Posted: Feb. 7, 2013 10:41 am Updated: Feb. 21, 2013 1:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

A dozen human pendulums swung freely Wednesday evening in the NuFit for You studio in Quincy.

Aerial yoga students who filled a room of the studio held their hands in prayer mode as their bodies rocked steadily in hammocks suspended from the ceiling.

Kate Martin and Kate Wingerter, the class's instructors, already had taught aerial yoga three other times at NuFit. As they rattled through traditional yoga poses such as mountain, downward dog and frog, each loop of fabric supported a participant.

"It feels like Cirque du Soleil, even though we're not doing the crazy stunts and poses," Wingerter said.

Four years ago, Wingerter and Martin traveled to Ojai, Calif., to study aerial dance during a weeklong course. Both instructors have performed in the area for many years and maintain a passion for dance and fitness. They returned to the region from California with the knowledge about aerial yoga but nowhere to teach the skills.

This year, NuFit owner Angie Asmann had hammocks fastened to the ceiling of her studio and gave the two dancers a place to practice and teach their craft.

"You do get the feeling of (being) suspended, of feeling your weight entirely supported by the fabric, and that's a really cool feeling," Martin said.

The hammocks hang from the ceiling and dangle to chair height above the floor. An average-size adult can ease into the seat of a hammock with minimal effort and swing without her feet touching the floor. The hammock can hold up to 1,200 pounds.

"It just relieves a lot of pressure off your joints that a lot of people really struggle with in a regular yoga class," Wingerter said.

The class strengthens the body's core. Aerial yoga improves the circulatory system, compresses the spine and eases the body's joints.

Yoga enthusiast Rebecca Tompkins has participated in three of the aerial classes. She said using the fabric felt slightly awkward initially, but eventually, she learned to use it to her benefit. The loop allows her to complete upside-down poses without straining her neck or stumbling.

"The hammock keeps you from falling on your face," Tompkins said. "It's a little harder to balance, but it's fun."

NuFit offers three aerial yoga classes a week. The class has proved popular among yoga novices and experts alike, and it doesn't require aerial, yoga or acrobatic experience.

"It's been great because people have come to try this who have never done a regular yoga class," Martin said. "We've been impressed with how well they've done and how excited they've been."