What is aerial yoga? New must-try workouts

Never heard of aerial yoga? You aren’t the only one. It’s just one of a new crop of workouts taking over your local gym.

My thighs are burning, my shoulders are aching, my abs are crying out in pain every time I laugh, and I’m not even at the gym. These are the aftershocks of a raft of fun new classes being offered at various gyms as alternatives to traditional workouts.

A word of warning: just because they’re fun, doesn’t mean they’re easy. But with a slew of celebrities using them to get red-carpet ready, you will get results.

Wanting to try these trendy training methods, but have no idea where to start? I’ve got you covered.

If you want to burn fat fast…

Try: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

David Beckham is a fan, Giuliana Rancic swears by it, and big-name celebrity trainers like Kathryn Freehand recommend it.  For the uninitiated, HIIT is a “training technique in which you give all-out, one hundred percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods”.

The class doesn’t involve equipment and it takes about the same time to watch as an episode of The Simpsons. High-intensity moves including start jumps, squat jumps and split leg lunges get your heart-rate up with eight-second work intervals, followed by 12 seconds of rest. 20 minutes of this and I am dripping with sweat. Huffing and puffing through five minutes of ab work before we finish with stretching. I am left wondering how long I am allowed to lie on the floor because I’m certain I can’t get up. Though this is one of the toughest workouts I have done, my body feels amazing.

If you’re looking for a lower impact workout that still packs a punch…

Try: Reformer Pilates

You’ve probably heard of Pilates, but Reformer Pilates? Maybe not.  Like traditional Pilates, except instead of exercising on the floor, you use a reformer. According to Virgin Active Gym, a reformer is a “piece of resistance exercise equipment designed by Joseph Pilates. It consists of a platform that moves back and forth along a carriage”.

Before the workout begins the instructor shows us how to work the contraption, explaining that the springs at the end of the reformer control the resistance levels. I learned the hard way to be careful not to put all the springs on, otherwise, my muscles will be too shaky to do anything past the five minute mark.

The list of benefits includes “toning, flexibility, better posture” and, of course, flat abs. After one session I felt muscles in my core that I never knew existed. I fully believe that if I keep this up I will have abs just like Miley Cyrus, who has Pilates to thank for her washboard stomach.

If you want to sweat (a lot) and still feel peaceful…

Try: Hot Yoga

“Remember, shaking is good,” says my uber-flexible yoga instructor to the class. This is reassuring as my muscles are shaking like leaves in a hurricane. As I spend my Friday night watching droplets of sweat fall off me into the ever-growing sweat pool on the floor, I contemplate why I’m not at a bar instead. However, the serene face and contorted body of the – clearly seasoned – yogi beside me, spurs me on. I move from yet another plank into an upward dog. My whole body burns, and not just because the room is heated to a sweat-inducing 30 degrees. (Pro tip for Hot Yoga: make sure you wear your hair in a bun to avoid your ponytail getting stuck in the sweaty crevice of your armpit like mine did.)

The reason for the hot room is because it brings the muscles and joints to their optimum temperature for added flexibility and relaxation. Vigorous sweating is said to be a detoxification for the skin, so you’re literally sweating out toxins while building strength and flexibility.

Sure, halfway through this class I am utterly defeated – but as hard and painful as this workout is, I walked out feeling taller, stronger, and more relaxed. Who wouldn’t want to end the week like that?

If you dreamed of being a circus performer (and having the strength of one too)…

Try: Aerial Yoga

Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian have tried, and loved, Aerial Acrobatics, which is very similar to aerial yoga. Essentially, it’s an antigravity workout that uses a silk hammock hanging from the ceiling, invented by Christopher Harrison. The workout typically uses moves from Yoga and Pilates, as well as a zero-compression inversion to give you a world of benefits.

My instructor, who introduces herself as an “aerialist” rather than a yoga instructor, explains that this class will elongate our spines. Not only does this help with back issues and such, we’re told we will walk out of this class taller than when we went in.  The Harrison Hammock is 3.5 meters wide and can hold up to 450kg.

Within minutes, we are sitting in the hammock, swinging back and forth. Sounds fun, right? It is! I didn’t even notice it was working my abs and arms until the next day.

Next minute, we’re all hanging upside down, and then back upright again stretching out our hips (this really, really hurts for the first three or four sessions).

Warning: the silk tends to dig into your skin when you hang from it or use it as support, so make sure you wear long pants and a t-shirt (I have the indents to prove it).

If you want to get a dancer’s body…

Try: Barre Classes

Victoria’s Secret Angels’ Karlie Kloss, Candice Swanepoel, and Alessandra Ambrosio are all fans of this toning, ballet-inspired exercise. Barre promises that, in no time, you will find that “long lean dancer’s body on the barre through working posture, balance and strength”.

The instructor, Ally, enthusiastically explained that barre classes use a mix of Pilates and ballet techniques to shape the butt and legs. Get ready to squat, lunge, and stand on your tippy toes for an optimum workout. Even with the barre for support nothing can truly prepare you for one-legged squats. A girl even collapses. Seriously. Her butt can’t take it! I suddenly picture myself heading down that same road as my glutes cramp, and burn, and cramp up some more.

Half an hour of this class was all my butt could take, but I’ll be back to morph myself into a supermodel, ballerina style.

So, what did I learn while trying these popular workouts? That I’m weak. Also, new exercises are needed every once in a while to challenge yourself! I would definitely go back to all these classes, and would recommend you try one, if not all, of these. – Lauren Croft

Top photo of aerial yoga from AntiGravity Fitness