Lauren Kennedy has been a dedicated yoga practitioner at Ebb ‘n Flow for well over a year and we invited her to have a short chat with us after aerial class a couple of weeks ago.
Aside from being a dedicated yogi, Lauren is a wife, mother, grandmother, and Kindergarten teacher in Westborough Public Schools. From a young age, she used to love gymnastics, dance, and being an all-around athletic young lady. But things took an unexpected turn when she was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and had to get a spinal fusion in high school.
She’s been affected by limited mobility and pain in her spine frequently since that time, but she’s come a long way from that period in her life and has continued to stay active in the ways that she can. A couple of years ago, she was introduced to yoga. The school principal brought in a teacher to lead an 8-week yoga session for stress relief for the teachers. Once a week after classes, she and her fellow teachers collected in the school and learned stretching and breathing exercises. It only took her a few classes to get hooked.
And what do we all do when we want more of something? We Google it of course! That’s how she discovered information about aerial yoga classes at Ebb ‘n Flow in Northborough.
She wasn’t terribly nervous about her first aerial class, mostly because, as a child, she had always loved tumbling and gymnastics. Still, there were a few things she had to get used to in the beginning.
“I wasn’t used to hanging upside down for so long,” Lauren says. “And it took me a while to learn how and where to place the silk on my body so that I could get the right balance and lift.”
But after a few classes, she started getting the hang of it – literally! She’s been practicing now for well over a year, and the benefits are incredible.
On the one hand, there are the physical aspects of her practice. She loves the decompression that comes from hanging upside down, where gravity allows her spine and neck to lengthen and stretch in a way that’s not possible when standing on the ground.
“I’m 54 years old,” she says, “and in recent years I’ve been having physical therapy for periods of time for my back, but aerial has been the best intervention and benefit for me. I’ve gained strength in my core, which has helped my back a lot. I feel less tension and pain in my hips. I’m building strength and a bit more grace.”
Her favorite poses include swan pose, somersaulting into the fabric, and the hip hang (which gives her spine and muscles a huge release).
But beyond the physical benefits, aerial and yoga have helped her deal with some difficult moments in her personal life.
When Lauren first started coming for yoga, her mother was very sick and experiencing a rapid health decline with a severe form of dementia (similar to Alzheimer’s). She started sharing part of her yoga practice with her mom.
“In the last months before she passed, I taught my mom a few yoga poses. Simple ones – like standing and stretching her arms above her head, bending forward, breathing deeply. She was going through a lot of anxiety, but these simple movements helped her to release stress and find strength. It was a moment for her mind to stop wandering and focus, to be present.”
She remembers very clearly one summer afternoon coming into the studio for an aerial class.
“I was hanging in the silk, facing the window. It was one of those beautiful days with a brilliant rainbow in the sky. I could see all the way out into the horizon, where the sky meets the earth. In that moment, I thought of my mother, whose spirit was passing, and I remember taking a deep breath to let her in, to let in some of the outside. I let everything work together – my mind, my body, my breath. It was beautiful.”
For Lauren, aerial yoga is a spiritual, physical, and mental exercise – it reminds her of her youth, her mother, and her ability to heal.
Thank you very much to Lauren for sharing her story with us. She has written a beautiful poem about her experience with aerial, which you can read on the home page of the Ebb ‘n Flow website.