Aerial Yoga: Floating Beauty

In a hammock for the first time, Anya Charles takes a pose called “angel.” (Photo by Marandah Jain)

A hot new fitness trend is coming to Fairfield. Aerial yoga, developed in New York a decade ago, has become popular throughout the world. Celebrities Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, and Pink all enjoy aerial yoga, which combines traditional yoga with aerial acrobatics. Participants use yoga silks or a yoga hammock to suspend themselves in yoga postures. The freedom from gravity can make certain poses easier, and being suspended takes weight off the spine.

Maya Busscher, a yoga teacher and dance instructor, is excited to be offering aerial yoga classes at Studio Meraki (formerly Gare Dance Studio). Maya chose the name because “meraki means living with passion, delight, and absolute devotion, immersing yourself totally.”

Maya wants to provide fitness classes that empower and strengthen people, especially women. One of the things that attracted her to aerial yoga was its grace and beauty. “It just looked so pretty,” she says. During training, she said, “We all felt the same way—we felt very empowered and we felt beautiful.”

aerial yoga, maya busscher

Maya Busscher, founder of Studio Meraki, loves the grace and beauty of aerial yoga. (Photo by George Foster)

Aerial yoga offers more than just a sense of serenity and beauty, though—it also offers some cool physiological benefits. “The hammock allows you to get into poses that may be a little harder for you on the ground because gravity affects you differently,” Maya explains. Participants find backbends almost effortless and are able to access stretches more deeply. Being suspended for upside-down poses also offers the benefits of inversion. The spine is decompressed and elongated, reversing the stresses of gravity. Reversed blood flow brings more blood to the brain, which can increase mental alertness. Some sources also claim inversion strengthens the immune system by encouraging lymph flow.

While most of the classes Maya teaches are open to all skill levels, aerial yoga has some contraindications. “There is an age limit and there is a weight limit,” she says. “People with certain prohibiting health conditions should not be inverted.”

Maya also teaches Dance Fitness, Precision Toning (Barre Fitness), and an Intermediate Dance Class. She wants her studio to be easily accessible, so people can exercise without impediment. “I just want to make fitness available to everyone,” she says, “because it’s so important.”

She has observed how much happier her clients are after a class and how their muscle tone and posture improves. “We live such a sedentary life in the U.S. and our posture is terrible,” she notes. “Posture affects everything. It’s a good feeling for me to see that at the end of class, everybody is standing upright.”

Maya feels exercise is an important part of healthy aging. “I think people get wrapped up in this mindset that aging has to look a certain way, but I’ve seen so many examples to the contrary. We choose how we age every day by what we’re doing with our bodies.” She’s also impressed at how fit some of her older clients are. “I just don’t think it’s ever too late to start treating your body differently, to start treating it right.”

aerial yoga, maya busscher

Maya Busscher: the floating beauty (Photo by George Foster)