Aerial yoga and ballet fitness are modern practices that also improve people’s physical conditions.
Medical Advisors: Juliana García – Aerial yoga instructor
Alejandra Salamanca – Ballet fitness instructor
Creativity and the desire to try new things to take physical activity a step further have helped to create new ways of exercising the body and the mind. Repetitive exercises and exercise machines have taken a back seat. Now the body is the medium for strengthening the muscles, increasing endurance and working on the well-being of the mind.
Ballet fitness and aerial yoga are two ways of doing this type of exercise. Ballet fitness takes the essentials of classical ballet techniques and mixes it together with exercises and music that are not instrumental in order to make body movement more dynamic. Aerial yoga on the other hand, includes other practices: it works the core (abdominal, lumbar and pelvic muscles), which is characteristic of Pilates; it implements the breathing techniques and energy awareness characteristics of yoga; and it also incorporates the acrobatics from aerial dance.
What are these practices and what are their main benefits? Alejandra Salamanca López, a professional ballet dancer and ballet fitness teacher, and Juliana García, an expert in aerial yoga, answer this question from their own experience.
Before starting new methods of exercise, the recommendation is to follow the guidance of a specialist in order to avoid potential injuries.
What is it?
Ballet fitness is a practice that combines the classical postures of artistic ballet with exercises and body movements designed for the muscles and joints. Alejandra Salamanca and her twin sister Andrea Salamanca were professional ballet dancers, but their hip injuries forced them to stop. Because of their experience, they created exercise routines to the beat of pop music. “This method uses much faster movements. We do deep push-ups using leg and arm supports. We work with the bar, do jumps and we use a lot of classical dance routines,” Alejandra Salamanca explains.
What are its benefits?
People who do this practice develop a unique respect for the body, “They become more sensitive and aware of their potential,” states Alejandra. “They boost their self-esteem and become very self-confident.” Ballet fitness also tones and strengthens the muscles that are more complex to work with using traditional exercises, as these movements prevent injuries and muscular atrophy, and they improve the body’s balance, flexibility and oxygenation.
Do you need to have experience with classical ballet?
Anyone can do this practice, there is no need to have prior knowledge of ballet movements or routines. “You also do not have to have a specific body type or fit the prototype for a classical dancer. Having the willingness and desire to learn is enough.”
What is it?
It is a variant of traditional yoga that combines the elements of other practices, such as Pilates and aerial dance. It consists of suspending the body from a hammock or swing while doing different positions or asanas. “The hammock helps the body to express itself and take any posture, while of course accounting for the different abilities and strengths of each person. It is also a great support for those who have joint problems or who do not have good stability,” explains aerial yoga professor Juliana García.
What are its benefits?
You become mindful of your breathing. As Juliana García explains, inversion postures – which is when you are upside down – can cause dizziness if the right breathing is not used, which is why it is important to be aware of each breath.
Because these inversions involve zero compression, people can align their backs and decompress their spines, creating a space between the cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae.
Blood circulation also improves when you are upside down. “You are moving it and bringing it to places that are harder to reach. It is a type of detox,” adds Garcia.
By moving the body in a different way than what it is used to, “This awakens and renews systems such as the endocrine and lymphatic systems.”
This also further strengthens the arms and legs. “The same thing happens with the core muscles. Another thing I notice is that people become more connected with their movements, and with their way of walking, sitting or climbing stairs.”
How is it different from traditional yoga practices?
With aerial yoga, the pressure is taken off the joints, “It actually works on decompressing the back. It is a much more physical practice than what traditional yoga involves.” No experience is necessary, and the hammock makes it a much friendlier activity. “Anyone can practice it, for example. My students rage from age 5 to 80,” says García.