RIYADH: Hovering a few feet above the ground, flying weightlessly and defying the laws of gravity is attracting women to practice the art of aerial yoga.
In an aerial yoga class, similar poses to yoga done on the mat are performed, but instead of using your body weight to support yourself, you use a silk hammock suspended from the ceiling.
Sarah Farhoud, a Saudi aerial fitness freelancer and yoga teacher, was introduced to aerial yoga classes while she was in medical school. “I used to go to do yoga and relax, and for a change, I decided to take an aerial class, and I never looked back,” Farhoud told Arab News.
She loved the sport so much that she became a freelance instructor in 2016 and has been taking aerial fitness classes in multiple studios across Riyadh.
The high demand was after 2017 when it was permitted to open licensed ladies’ gyms. I got the TOT (the Training of Trainers) from Cirque Fitness USA. Today, we have 508 certified instructors in aerial hammock, silks, and hoop by aerial arts in Saudi Arabia.
Roa Al-Sahhaf, Aerial yoga instructor
“Girls are interested, and they like the challenge. They trust the hammock, and they do not fear being upside down. They are encouraged to take harder poses and they trust their bodies. I think the new generation is more courageous and excited,” she said.
The hammock is designed to help you increase your flexibility and strength while enabling you to perform more difficult poses without putting additional strain on your shoulders, spine or head.
“If your life is stressful, try aerial yoga as a way to break up your routine and rediscover the joy of being upside down, using the fabric to lift you to the other side, or using it as a swing. I’ve attended many classes where everyone is laughing and giggling because they’re having a good time, and you can allow yourself to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment,” Farhoud said.
She believes that Vision 2030 will encourage more studios to open and make sports more inclusive and accessible for everyone by opening parks and community centers.
Roa Al-Sahhaf, an aerial yoga instructor, was in Paris when she was introduced to aerial yoga and decided to take it back home.
“I tried aerial for the first time in Paris, and when I came back to Saudi Arabia I couldn’t find it anywhere in Jeddah, so I decided to open one in Jeddah. It started as a home studio, and then I started giving classes to other gyms. Eventually, in 2018, I opened my own studio named Aerial Arts in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Sahhaf told Arab News.
Al-Sahhaf noticed that there was a high demand for the sport, but there were not enough instructors.
“The high demand was after 2017 when it was permitted to open licensed ladies’ gyms. I got the TOT (the Training of Trainers) from Cirque Fitness USA. Today, we have 508 certified instructors in aerial hammock, silks, and hoop by aerial arts in Saudi Arabia,” she said.
Al-Sahhaf said that many people enjoy trying new things and that aerial yoga can be more popular than traditional yoga due to its greater difficulty and the enjoyment people gain from it.
“Aerial is like a water sport. It’s good for people who are not flexible or who have roughness in the knees or fragility in the disc. It’s good for people who can’t do any kind of sport because the hammock lifts so much weight off them,” Al-Sahhaf said.
“It’s like doing an exercise with another person, and by the end of the session we always give a meditation (exercise) so they can be tangled around the hammock and meditate,” she said. “It gives them a great feeling.”
Yoga is gaining popularity as a fitness trend in Saudi Arabia, and the Ministry of Commerce approved the teaching and practice of yoga as a sport in the Kingdom in November 2017.
“The facilities have improved a lot in the fields of licensing, support, sponsorship, and we are happy with this,” Al-Sahhaf said.