I’ve just been indulging myself in a little bit of nostalgia, looking back at how our own approach to Aerial Yoga came to be somatically focused.
In 2012 both Amanda and myself were invited to join a Chakra Aerial Yoga Teacher Training being offered by our friend Devi Kaur who was one of the first people to bring Aerial Yoga to the UK. We were invited along to take part in the training with the intention of us offering feedback about how the training could be improved, as Amanda and myself had previously embarked along the Nia training path, having taken top-up trainings in Nia over a five year period, and so had varied experience of teacher trainings. We went to take 5 days out and immerse ourselves in something new and to pretty much be guinea pigs with a view to offering suggestions on how it could be enhanced.
Our experience of being on this training was one of gradually falling in love with the practice. We went with no thought of being Aerial Yoga teachers, because in our own minds we knew we were fully committed to teaching Nia. At the end of the training we gave our feedback, suggesting elements we’d embraced from training in Nia, and highlighting ways in which the Chakra aspect of the training could be enhanced and more deeply integrated. Then we went away as certified Aerial Yoga Teachers with two hammocks, kind of wondering why we’d got two hammocks and not knowing how we’d use them…
It wasn’t until 18 months later that we actually began to teach regularly. In between, we went over to a friends studio when it opened and taught some one to one aerial yoga sessions and did little bits of aerial yoga wherever and whenever we could – mainly as a personal practice.
At the end of 2012 we moved our regular Nia classes to a new venue in Leeds; one with massive metal beams. We took the opportunity to hang our two hammocks and we’d go and do bits of aerial yoga as and when we could. We’d take our manual and gradually work our way through it teaching each other the content so we brought what we’d previously learnt back to life.
In 2013, Amanda and I took the leap and launched Aerial Yoga Leeds. We had no money to buy the equipment so we took out a three month interest-free credit card and paid nearly £2000 to get the equipment to start teaching regularly. We had three months in which to make the money back from teaching classes to cover those costs. We found that as soon as we started teaching, there was so much interest in it we paid off the credit card in within two months. We started by teaching regular workshops at weekends and we began two classes – one on a Sunday morning and the other on a Thursday evening. After a couple of months we decided to shift the Sunday morning to a Sunday evening class and we pretty much kept that same arrangement going for the following four years. We taught at least one workshop most weekends sometimes up to four spread over two days. We taught many people from Leeds and also began to attract people from elsewhere in Yorkshire and then further out in the North of England. We lost count of how many people we actually taught beginners workshops with.
Running alongside our Aerial Yoga Leeds launch, I began training in Somatics with Martha Peterson of Essential Somatics and by 2015 I’d started a three year Clinical Somatic Educator training with her. I worked with Martha to host more Somatic Exercise Coach trainings and also got to assist on many of them. In 2014 Amanda also took the Somatics training with Martha and became familiar with the same material. Our Somatics exploration had begun.
In 2015 we had the honour of being asked to join Devi Kaur as part of the Aerial Yoga UK training team. Devi had immersed herself deeper into the Chakra system and she’d also trained in Kundalini Yoga which was her regular daily practice. We first assisted on two back to back trainings – Chakra Aerial Yoga Level 1 & 2 training and a Restorative Aerial Yoga training. Amanda then went to Iceland with Devi to deliver two trainings, including a more advanced Level 3 training, and at the end of 2015 we all went to Goa where we delivered two more Aerial Yoga trainings together. We became immersed in the material, while at the same time our work with Somatics began to expand and made us ask questions about why were doing what we were doing.
Following this year of trainings, as I continued to be immersed in Clinical Somatic Educator training, Amanda also did a further training with Martha Peterson – Somatic Exercise Coach Level 2 and we also began to work with James Knight – founder of Gentle Somatic Yoga.
Where Devi began to grow in the direction of the Chakras and Kundalini Yoga we began to grow in the direction of Somatic Yoga. So in 2016 we left Aerial Yoga UK and decided to step back from training and focus more into teaching Aerial Yoga with our own Somatic development.
As we ceased being Chakra Aerial Yoga trainers we began to experiment with taking a more somatic approach to Aerial Yoga. It wasn’t that Somatics wasn’t there in our own personal experience but once we stopped delivering Chakra Aerial Yoga trainings we began to allow Somatics to have a stronger influence on what we taught and how we taught it.
We shifted away from teaching a set pattern and using a standard class sequence and we began to play and explore alternative sequences. We began to consider how Somatics could begin to inform our Aerial Yoga practice and how movements could be pandiculated. We found ourselves getting excited about the possibilities of inviting people to focus more into sensation and become more aware of what they were doing as they practised Aerial Yoga. We began to consider which moves lent themselves to a more somatic focus and which didn’t. And which moves needed to be mastered first before we could layer on more advanced movements. We went back to basics with Aerial Yoga and stripped it down to a very simple practice. We got excited and fell in love with Aerial Yoga all over again. This time we were developing a form of Aerial Yoga that made sense to us. We decided to rebrand and we launched Radiant Star Yoga; we felt passionate about what we were developing and we gave ourselves 9 months to develop a new Aerial Yoga training.
In July 2017 we let go of Aerial Yoga Leeds giving it away to one of the Aerial Yoga teachers we’d previously trained and then in August 2017 we unveiled our new Radiant Star Aerial Yoga – Fundamentals Teacher Training. In October we taught a second training and then in December 2017 I completed my Clinical Somatic Educator training and at the same time we left Leeds and went to India.
We stayed in Goa for just over three months and in that time we began to develop our next new training Somatic Lo-Flo. Whilst we were there we were contacted by a previous trainee asking if we could offer a Restorative training. We told her what we were working on and she said she wanted to do the Somatic Lo-Flo training and invited us to go to Hyerababd and deliver the training at Anhata Yoga Zone Studio. From January until March we were producing the new manual and prepping for the training. Our house in Goa had a beam so we could hang an aerial yoga hammock in the middle of the living room and photograph the images for the manual. By March it was complete and we flew to Hyderabad and delivered our first Aerial Yoga Somatic Lo-Flo training. It was such a buzz to be traveling to Hyderabad to deliver our second new Aerial Yoga training and we had the pleasure of reconnecting with someone that we’d trained two years earlier to experience what she was achieving with Aerial Yoga there.
In April we returned from India to begin living in Wales where we were asked if we could deliver an online Aerial Yoga teacher training which we are now in the process of completing.
Yesterday we completed a weekend of Somatic Yoga at the new Heather Yoga studio in Saltaire,West Yorkshire. We had great fun introducing Aerial Yoga in a totally new studio giving students a taste of both Aerial Yoga Fundamentals and Somatic Lo-Flo.
We also loved being there because this is the venue we’ve chosen as the home for the two Aerial Yoga teacher trainings we will be offering this year. The first training takes place in late July and will be our 7-day Fundamentals training which we’re looking forwards to sharing with more people interested in becoming Aerial Yoga teachers. The second training will take place in October, when we are excited to be introducing our new 5-day Aerial Yoga Somatic Lo-Flo teacher training.
By David Fleming, co-creator of Radiant Star Aerial Yoga