Off the ground and upside down! Sometimes, this is the best medicine for our body-mind. Read about how Stephanie Coutant-Matsen brings a connected sense of Self to teens and tweens in a safe, fun and playful smile!
Read more. And better yet: if you're a tween or teen, join her for Teen Aerial Yoga "Camp-in" on February 17 and 19!
As a student and teacher of Yoga for 18 years, my very favorite experience occurs when I witness teenagers come to life in aerial yoga. They light up after participating in a class using aerial hammocks, a silk swing that spins and holds them tight in topside-up and upside-down postures.
The obvious and speedy transformation in their physical, emotional and cognitive states has become my joy. Teenagers quickly shift from perceptible fear and uncertainty to ones of calm confidence. There is a weightlessness in their facial expressions, affect and physical posturing that was not present before. This all takes place within 75 minutes! Magic. So what is the trick?
Our Sixth Sense
In the ever expanding brain science field of “Sensory Processing,” we study the Proprioceptive and Vestibular systems in particular. In plain language, these systems of the body-brain are responsible for perceiving where the body is in space and/or relative to its surroundings. Through the five senses, the brain processes various stimuli of us in a context. What we feel or touch, hear, see, taste and smell gives us an abundance of information. We define who we are through being in relationship.
We can take this one step further though when we talk about developing awareness of Self. Tantric philosophy gives the map of exploring this whole-mind-body integration in the system of the koshas. Koshas or “layers of being” are spiralic sheaths of awareness and physical manifestation cloth our individual personhood. Through this framework, we can hourish subtle layers of awareness.
A sixth sense? Perhaps. And I’m not referring to the Bruce Willis thriller film!
The Magic of Aerial Yoga
Aerial yoga truly offers us an safe and fun context to develop this “sixth sense.” The silk swings beckons tween and teens, particularly girls, by its uniqueness and challenge. It “looks cool” and answers a desire for adventure and fun. And it is! Not to mention the great Instagram photo-ops!
What ends up happening is both the mind and body are challenged yet soothed, energized yet calmed. The tactile stimulation silk swing’s massage and pressure - or hug - soothes and balances the nervous system. Research has shown that this is particularly helpful to children with Spectrum Disorders. In addition, aerial yoga creates a safe container for inversions. There are multiple documented therapeutic physical and mental benefits of inverting or going upside-down.
Add all of this to the opportunity to explore movement and creativity in a safe and supportive space with peers, smiles, music and laughter. The end product indeed feels like magic!
Towards a Sturdy Foundation of Healthy Development
Aerial yoga, however, is by no means a quick, “one-and-done” fix. As with anything, consistency is key. You get what you give. In this case, I would venture to say, we actually get quite a bit more out of only 75 minutes!
Regular aerial yoga practice can help tweens and teens lay a sturdy foundation for better self-awareness and healthy development. It can improve cognitive and motor skills, as well as contribute to a better overall sense of well-being. In their sometimes very confusing and often anxiety-provoking worlds, this might be magic enough!
Stephanie Coutant-Matsen, MSW, E-RYT
Participate in the magic of aerial yoga! Join her and fellow teens on February 17 and 19 for a 90-minute Teen Aerial Yoga "Camp-in!" Space is limited to 10 per class for safety. Register now.