If you’re finding your current exercise routine a bit humdrum, you might want to check out a new fitness practice for the new year.
Aerial yoga has come to Morris, and it’s anything but humdrum. Participants perform yoga poses suspended in silky blue “hammocks” that hang 3 feet above the ground. There are soft mats underneath, but you won’t find any of the aerial yoga routines done on the mats themselves.
Certified yoga instructor Heather Poffenbarger, a Yorkville resident who was raised in Morris, brought aerial yoga to town about a year ago and says her clients love it.
“There are several ways to practice yoga, and this is one of them,” Poffenbarger said. “It’s a good form of exercise, and it’s fun. It’s like you’re channeling your inner child.”
Many of the poses she teaches in her classes are the same as the yoga poses done on mats, but there are some differences between mat and aerial yoga.
“You can do some new poses in aerial yoga that you can’t do on your mat,” she said.
One is the “Iron Cross,” which Poffenbarger said involves gripping the silks and lifting your feet off the ground while holding on by your arms.
Some of them are quite challenging, she said, and some of them are no more difficult than the basic mat poses.
“I like the physicality of it,” Poffenbarger said. “Even the beginners moves can be challenging. ... There’s no experience necessary to join an aerial yoga class. You can come and make it your own and challenge yourself differently at your level. You get plenty of room to grow.”
Some people additionally do yoga for spiritual growth, to develop the mind-body connection, to restore balance in their lives and for other reasons.
Poffenbarger said many of her clients were referred by their physicians, who recommended the fitness program for stretching, strengthening and movement, she said, without heavy impact. Poffenbarger said low back pain is one of the most common reasons doctors send their patients to yoga.
Ashley Beagle, of Morris, is one of Poffenbarger’s clients and said she loves aerial yoga because she finds it an enjoyable way to exercise. She likes it more than she did conventional mat yoga, which she called boring.
“It’s fun,” she said. “It’s something different from the traditional yoga. It’s more challenging, too. I like when I go into my cocoon. It’s nice and relaxing. I try to turn my brain off.”
Beagle’s favorite pose, though, is the gazelle, which resembles an upside-down gazelle on the run.
Poffenbarger came across aerial yoga a couple of years ago when friends said they had tried it and enjoyed it. She’s been into fitness and movement most of her life, dancing since she was about five, and also running marathons, playing soccer, and participating in such group exercise classes as cycling, TRX, weight-lifting and circuit training.
Her class is affiliated with the Forte Arts Center Dance Studio, and she rents space from the studio in the building next door, the former Play it Again video store, at 1204 N. Division Street in Morris.
Currently, she offers aerial yoga classes once a week for those ages 15 and up through Forte’s website. She also offers group private sessions, which she says have been popular, as well. She’s done them for parties, families and for groups of girlfriends.
Those interested may register at www.forteartscenter.com, under register, Morris schedule, then yoga. Poffenbarger’s Facebook page is Aerial Yoga with Heather.