Remember The Metamorphosis? Remember how Gregor Samsa emerged and stretched into his giant bug body and how good it felt? Okay, well maybe Gregor didn’t feel good initially-rather, he felt kind of awkward and clumsy. Imagine that feeling of awkardness, like a bug on its back trying to flip, but surrounded by others as you all find your insect wings. This is Firefly Yoga. A hybrid of aerial silks-think Cirque du Soleil-and yoga, Firefly Yoga doesn’t really require any underlying basic knowledge of yoga or silks, just a sense of experiential adventure and a dash of humor.
Spawned by Marina Luna, Firefly Yoga involves the use of a tangerine-colored nylon hammock secured to a metal beam at two points that hangs about three feet off the floor. (The distance can be adjusted, depending on one’s height and comfort levels.) Luna combines the use of the hammock with traditional yoga in a fun and playful way: “I just want people to have fun with it. I just think it’s such a fun, interesting way to move. And I feel like it brings out the kid in everybody. You know, most of us don’t get to hang upside down since we were little kids”¦ And I feel like, ideally, you feel really good afterwards.” Some exercises use the hammock as a support while standing, sitting or kneeling, while other exercises involve the participant sitting inside of or wrapped around the hammock. Though the nylon feels like lingerie, fear not for it can hold up to 3,000 pounds-plenty strong to hold you as you flip, twist, turn and hang. A yoga mat is also used, mostly to orient people but also to prevent people from sliding on the floor.
Luna studied aerial acrobatics for ten years and practiced yoga for thirteen years; she has been teaching both for almost as long. When she began teaching at Urban Flow, she was encouraged to teach a fusion of the two. Luckily, Luna’s residence could be outfitted with her own private hammock with which she could experiment.
Luna has had to adapt and modify the class because, unlike an aerial acrobat class that might have a maximum of four people and one hammock, she needs to be able to safely instruct and supervise 11 people with eleven hammocks. She has “had to slow it down a bit and, at the same time, make it feel more like a yoga class.” Luna explains, “It’s more experiential than either my regular style of vinyasa class or the circus class. A little movement changes a lot.”
Despite these modifications, there are aspects of Firefly Yoga that will take some getting used to. As Luna explains, “People think, ”˜Fabric soft. Hammock comfortable.’ But you’re hanging in it, and so there’s often pressure that’s unexpected and odd feeling.” [Um”¦yes, totally true statement. The fabric might be six feet wide, but then it bunches and squeezes and”¦unexpected and odd feelings abound.]
Another drawback? Motion sickness. “Because it moves, it’s a little like being in a boat,” Luna sympathetically tells me. To help combat that, acupressure bands and ginger chews are now regularly offered to those in need. It’s also recommended that you come to class with a little something in your stomach-if you eat about 2 hours before class, you should be fine.
Every bug must go through an awkward pupa stage, only we get the benefit of Luna’s instruction! The class is truly an all-levels class: no matter how advanced your yoga practice, you will be moving in totally new and different ways-which equals teenage years all over again. (If she ever went through an awkward larva stage, Luna’s lithe and muscular body betrays nothing as she effortlessly demonstrates the various poses and movements.) Luna begins the class with basic orientation and familiarization with the hammock. Before you know it, you’re sitting in the hammock and then inverted in it. Core work done in a hammock takes on a new dimension as does deepening a stretch. That being said, because different parts of your body are suspended in any given pose, Firefly Yoga is also a good option for people with injuries who need support in particular poses. There’s also plenty of the fun aerial stuff as you find your bug wings to fly, or float, or just unroll.
Despite any awkward feelings, the experience is simply beautiful. Sitting inside of the hammock, enveloped in an orange cocoon as you float in space, is peaceful and comforting. As Luna describes her experience: “We use the word ”˜float’ a lot and that’s what I love the most about it-it’s that you can really just float, you can really just hang in it, and be safe and held and free, too.” You emerge feeling renewed, if not completely transformed.
To find your inner bug, check out a Firefly Yoga workshop at Urban Flow studio. It is a completely donation-based class (recommended donation: $20.00). The schedule for workshops can be found on Luna’s website and Facebook page.