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What to Expect During Your First Aerial Class

CRUNCH

Trying out a new workout class for the first time is always a little intimidating, but when it involves hanging upside down and wrapping your body up like a burrito, the fear factor gets taken up a notch. Yet, aerial classes can be a welcome change from your regular high-impact, high-intensity workouts, and you can still expect the physical and mental perks. (For example, these 7 Ways Aerial Yoga Will Take Your Workout to the Next Level.) Aerial classes aren't just about yoga anymore—other hybrids like aerial barre, Pilates, silks, and pole are available across the country. Here's what to know before heading to your first class.

1. Leave loose fitting clothing behind
Unlike some yoga classes where it may be comfortable to wear wide pants and blousey tanks, tight-fitting clothing is best for aerial classes. Go for leggings and a top with sleeves, which will prevent bare skin from getting pinched in certain positions and keep your clothes from sliding around on the hammock (such as the commonly used Harrison AntiGravity Hammock), which uses one piece of fabric, or silks, which consists of two longer pieces of fabric. If your skin is dry, which can make it slippery, consider wearing sticky socks or gloves for extra grip, suggests Christopher Harrison, creator of AntiGravity Fitness.

2. Come with an open mind
"Most people don't realize just how capable they are at succeeding at flying moves," says Harrison. Believe in yourself and don't let your mind get the best of you. It may take a few tries, but imagine that the hammock or silks are your ground. That makes it easier to let go and fly. Bonus: Since the movements are all new to you, you'll feel totally inspired and accomplished after just one class. "The post-AntiGravity endorphin rush is real," says Harrison.

3. Don't head for the back row
You may be tempted to go right for the back corner of the room, but stick to the front or middle, as the back becomes the front when you are upside down, reminds Harrison.

4. Get ready for inversions
Even if you hate doing inverted poses in your regular yoga practice, embrace them when you're in the hammock. "In aerial yoga, you have the unique opportunity to be completely inverted without gravity to hold you down," says Deborah Sweets, a group fitness manager at Crunch in New York City. You'll also be less likely to fall in aerial yoga because you have the hammock to support you, which makes going head first a little less scary. "Inversions are a key benefit of class because they lengthen and release tension in the spine, as well as detoxing the body by massaging the lymphatic system." (Did you know there's even an Anti-Gravity Facial?)

5. Don't worry if you're not that flexible
If you're lacking in flexibility, this class is actually perfect for you, says Harrison, because the stretching and lengthening will help you to build flexibility. Aside from static and dynamic stretching, you'll also use the hammock or silks for myofascial release, which can help to ease up tight muscles, adds Sweets.

6. Expect to stretch and strengthen
There are plenty of options for strengthening in class as well, says Sweets. Your core will be engaged the entire time to keep you stable during poses and you'll use your upper body to hold yourself while suspended. In Airbarre, you'll also use the hammock to float off the earth for traditional movements such as grand jetes, which are even harder than using traditional ballet barre because the hammock is unstable, encouraging you to engage much more fully through the core and legs.

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