Shimmering curtains of parachute silk, mountain climbing equipment, tree branches and Christmas lights give the Core Balance yoga studio the look of an ethereal movie set.
But make no mistake: sweat happens here.
“Come on, you’re strong, you can do this,” instructor Colleen Wilson encourages during an aerial yoga class as her students pull themselves up with fistfuls of parachute fabric.
The downtown Yakima yoga studio is one of the first in Eastern Washington to offer aerial yoga courses, and students are excited about the way 18-by-9-foot parachute silk slings can transform into pull-up bars, swings, “angel wings” and even hammocks during aerial classes. “The aerial really takes yoga to the next level,” Wilson says. “It allows for a deeper stretch.”
Since aerial is so new to our area, people interested in taking classes have lots of questions … everything from what to wear to a class to what to expect.
Some students are nervous about whether the delicate-looking fabric will support them, but the silks used in the course are commercially produced for aerial yoga and support up to 700 pounds. The fabric is knotted around locking rock climbers’ caribiners, which are clipped onto nylon rigging wrapped around a steel I-beam frame.
Studio owner Aliage Mason says that people often assume that they have to be extraordinarily fit before they can take an aerial class. “People think that they need to be in such great shape they could join a circus, but that’s definitely not the case.” The added support of a fabric sling reassures students who can use the extra help with balance — but the silks also can add a challenge for more advanced students.
Mason says that one of the most famous yoga instructors in the world, B.K.S. Lyenger, came up with the idea for a rope wall or “yoga wall” to enable students to achieve proper alignment during inversions, and that was likely the inspiration for aerial yoga.
Most newcomer questions are addressed in an hour-long safety workshop that prospective students must take before they can sign up for an aerial class at Core Balance. Wilson is particularly proud of the fact that the studio has a pristine safety record, and credits the safety classes for properly educating prospective students.
People with injuries and flexibility problems often swear by regular yoga, but Wilson says aerial has a devoted following of folks with back and neck problems. “Aerial really allows people to escape gravity and provides a natural spinal adjustment … and improves posture,” Wilson says.
The aerial setup requires a lot of work, admits Wilson, who teaches science to fifth-graders at Selah Intermediate School during the day. The silks are adjusted according to student height, and some students even buy their own silks they bring in for class. The fabric requires regular inspection and cleaning, and students usually find that their skin also has to condition to adjust to the pressure of hanging from the silks. But the fun factor makes up for it all, she says.
The building on South Third Street that houses Core Balance is owned by occupational therapist John Harrison, who practices in the same facility as the yoga studio. Mason works as a licensed massage therapist in concert with Harrison, and says she decided to start a yoga studio in January 2012 after exploring yoga for rehabilitating injuries.
Aerial classes have been going on for about a year now, since Mason and two other instructors (Colleen Wilson and Christina Bassani) became certified aerial instructors, and the studio was remodeled with the steel beam frame to accommodate the silks.
Core Balance offers a variety of other classes each week: “hot yoga,” yin yoga, hatha yoga and more.
The studio also gets a lot of questions about hot or “warm” yoga, says Mason, who highly recommends the heated classes for people with chronic pain from certain kinds of injuries. The studio is heated to about 90-95 degrees during the warm classes, and students say that the higher temperatures allow for deeper stretching.
Students in the advanced power aerial yoga classes work on strengthening core muscles, while other classes focus mainly on stretching and flexibility. The studio offers advanced and beginner aerial courses each week, and a safety workshop every other Saturday. Students can register for classes on the company’s website, where several different payment options are offered — you can purchase a punchcard for multiple classes at about $10 per class, or pay a flat monthly fee of about $50 for unlimited classes (aerial and other classes are the same price).
“Yoga isn’t all about just becoming stronger and more flexible,” Wilson says, although she added she gets a great deal of satisfaction from seeing people become more fit. “It can benefit spiritual and emotional needs too...it’s all about the whole person, mind and body.”
For more information about the Core Balance Studio, visit corebalanceinc.com.