Standing behind a suspended orange hammock, Sophia Jonczak, 9, is ready for Pigeon, one of several poses she and nine other girls recently tried during an aerial yoga class at Yoga Centric in Bel Air.
The Fallston resident lifts her bent leg and places it into the hammock, leaving her other leg grounded on the studio’s floor.
“Lift your heel and come on up,” says instructor Nicole Valan as she walks around the studio, guiding students’ arms and legs. “Now lean into your Pigeon so your chest comes forward but doesn’t collapse.”
Unlike traditional yoga, which uses a mat on the floor, this Aerial Junior class for students ages 8 to 14 incorporates silklike hammocks hanging from the ceiling for yoga poses. Yoga Centric began offering the class a few years ago after seeing the success of the adult version.
For an hour, the girls move through the poses with ease — and a few giggles.
“They’re not afraid to laugh at themselves,” Valan says. “Kids are more willing to try new things than adults. And many stay in the studio even after class is over. They’re not in a rush to leave.”
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, more than 8 percent of children ages 4 to 17 used yoga in 2017 — up from 3.1 percent in 2012. Benefits of aerial yoga include better overall strength and more trust and confidence in one’s body, Valan says. Plus, it’s a thrill for kids, says Emily Glasgow, studio manager.
“Being in the silk, you’re off the ground and you feel like you’re flying,” she says. “It’s a fun way to get exercise in.”
Many of the pose names, including Vampire, Diaper, and Chandelier, are the same as those in the adult class, but others are modified, like Wiggle Fish Around the World, to keep the mood light, Valan says. Some even have the students hanging upside down, which Alissa Maley says comes naturally to her 8-year-old daughter and gymnast, Olivia.
“I like that she’s able to climb without being on my walls at home, and have a lot of fun hanging upside down in a safe environment,” the Abingdon resident says.
Like Olivia, Sophia also enjoys the acrobatic aspect of the class.
“It’s not really that hard after you’ve done it once,” Sophia says.
While Candy Cane is her favorite pose, what Sophia likes most about the class is how it helps her mind, even more than her body.
“It’s very calming,” she says. “It wipes away my worries.”
Yoga Centric’s Aerial Junior class is offered on days when Harford County Public Schools are closed, on weekends and in the summer. Cost is $15 per class or three classes for $40.