A style of yoga that sends practitioners soaring through the air is transforming the lives of people with disabilities in Fernie.
Originating in New York, aerial or anti-gravity yoga uses a hammock or swing and combines traditional yoga poses with moves inspired by pilates, dance and acrobatics.
Essential Yoga Studio in Fernie offers regular aerial yoga classes and recently hosted its third aerial yoga teacher training course, which attracted seven enrolments.
Studio owner Francesca ter Poorten said most people only did a handful of aerial yoga classes before signing up for teacher training, including herself.
“People just get really drawn to it quite quickly and just want to learn more,” she said.
ter Poorten has been teaching yoga for 25 years and aerial yoga for the past four years.
She said the style was suited to all ages and abilities, and was beneficial for people who found traditional yoga poses challenging.
“It’s not a more difficult style of yoga, it’s actually a style of yoga that makes things easier,” she said.
“It promotes spinal lengthening, it’s a lot of anti-gravity work. It’s not like Cirque du Soleil, it’s really healing.”
For Joanne Flett, aerial yoga has been life-changing.
“I have double scoliosis, so my back looks more like a corkscrew rather than a nice straight line,” she said.
“It has helped to lengthen it and reverse some of the damage that gravity, and bad positions have done.
“I’ve done lots of different modalities but I find that aerial yoga lets me use a little bit of everything.”
The 34-year-old audiologist also has osteoarthritis and chronic pain is her constant companion.
Flett has found relief and new movement since taking up aerial yoga this year, and decided to sign up for the teacher training course at Essential Yoga “just for fun”.
“I’ve gotten a lot more confident and comfortable in the silks, and I’ve pushed myself into some of the poses I haven’t been able to bring myself to do before,” she said.
“I’ve just gotten past some of those boundaries that I have restricted myself with before, for whatever reason I guess. Mentally, just overcoming my limitations.”
Flett has inspired ter Poorten to investigate grant funding options to host more classes for people living with a physical disability.
“That’s something the teachers in the studio and I have toyed around with because some do chair yoga already with people in town,” she said.
“I feel like the aerial silks have a place to work with people who have disabilities and Joanne has really ignited my interest in that.
“Besides that, it’s fun, it’s playful. We sometimes equate being an adult with being serious and to have an adult come up (out of the silks) and belly laugh… or leaving the studio happy and excited, that to me is just a huge reward.”
ter Poorten urged anyone with a disability who feels they would benefit from aerial yoga to contact her at 250-423-9672.