Aerial Yoga and the Power of Passivity

In this feature we speak to Richard Holroyd, Aerial yoga teacher, about the power of passivity and creativity. Richard teaches regular Introduction to Aerial Yoga workshops at Islington.

Where did aerial yoga originate from?

Aerial Yoga originated in New York City – where it’s called anti-gravity yoga… Originally it was a combination of circus skills, performance art and a good cardio workout. Not surprisingly as It was developed by a circus performer called, Christopher Harrison. He had found great relief for his back pain whilst doing inversions on a yoga retreat. Using his creativity he fused together his passion and skill in the circus arts with the use of a swing to make stretching easier, deeper more creative and engaging as an experience.

What benefits do Aerial yoga offer that a regular yoga practice doesn’t?

I think that where Aerial really comes into it’s own are in the areas of passivity and creativity. Having the body weight partially or wholly supported allows the body to relax deeply – and I mean deeply, think massage more than yoga class. We put our bodies under a lot of stress living in the city. It’s a challenging and from an evolutionary standpoint a very new environment. We need to make intelligent adaptations to this environment. I’m convinced that one of the reasons for Aerial’s growth is that it brings balance back to an overworking/heated body and mind by allowing it to ‘under-work’. This is the power of passivity. We all know mindfulness has many scientifically proven benefits. Yet mindfulness strikes me as a pretty passive activity. Perhaps we’ll come to understand and value more the power of passivity in the coming years but in the meantime my observations are that it encourages smiles, sometimes even giggling and outright laughter. In other words it lets you unwind and enjoy the life more.

The creativity comes from the range of motion that the swing and handles allow for and from changing the bodies relationship to gravity. You’ll feel different. The body will be able to do things outside of its ordinary experience. Which is engaging and interesting. Which then brings you into the present moment. Which brings you a great deal closer to ease, happiness and pleasure. And, creativity. All of which are good for your health – physical and mental.

Is it suitable, like yoga, for people from all ages and fitness levels?

I would say so yes. We’ve worked with pregnant women, kids and wheelchair users so far. As well as a full range of age and body types. I would say it’s a particularly good way to start exercising again especially if you’ve gained a some weight.

What is your favourite aerial posture and why?

That’s a tough one. I like being cocooned in it. There’s a certain womb-like quality to that which is very soothing. I also like aerial headstand. Which is basically just hanging in the air suspended from your pelvis. For the endorphins it releases into my bloodstream and the sense of physical freedom it gives particularly in the shoulders, neck, jaw and lower back

What can people expect from your introductory workshops?

I aim to create a field, an environment with the swings that is safe and secure. If I create that environment the people attending will start to unwind, start to relax and then start to create. That creativity takes you closer to what you really are. And it gives me a lot of pleasure to be a part of that process. Expect to be safe. Expect to start and end the class in cocoon. In between? I can’t answer that question until after you’ve been to a class because what you bring will be part of the answer.

What is your top 5 tips to maintain a healthy spine?

Manipulate it in the four directions (back, front, side & twist) and spinal decompression on a daily basis…and do it lovingly – that’ll always help.

Upcoming Aerial Yoga Workshops