Honey, Take Your (Aerial) Vitamins Before Play Time Please

When Julianna and I started brainstorming for the Aerial Hoop Manual Volume 1, we realized that there is a distinct difference between correct technique and choreographic choice. I am a fan of saying, “Nothing is wrong [as far as body positions in space] as long as it is done on purpose and with full body awareness.” Julianna is a big fan of saying, “But don’t forget to take your vitamins.”


single knee hang.Still001

Because of my background in dance, I am very experimental when it comes to aerial movement. I appreciate what the Aerial Dance Festival in Boulder, CO has done for the aerial dance world. The idea is to treat your apparatus like a contact improvisation partner and go for it. There is about as much as modern dance in terms of proper technique and relatively little in terms of set moves that get progressively more difficult. Because of my love of modern dance and all pioneers in the field, I love keeping the idea that all positions of the body are okay as long as you are aware of what your body is doing. Every shape can have an expressive purpose, and in this framework, I play. I do very little conditioning or what’s “proper.” The whole reason I have enjoyed writing the books is because it has forced to me to sit down and look at moves in ways in which I typically ignore them.

Our conversation started when we discussing the single knee hang on hoop. I, of course, just wanted to hang out. Up I went on the hoop to just hang ten. Julianna, as sternly as my ballet teacher told me I had terrible feet, said that I was turning my hips out and needed to work on squaring them.

Me: “I don’t need to square my hips. I like working in turn out.”

Julianna: “But you need your vitamins! You can turn out once you have learned how to work in parallel. Working in parallel will train your muscles how to properly engage so that you can go into turn out from there.”

Me: “I am awesome and can do anything in aerial. Let me try this exercise.” Me 5 seconds later: “That’s freakin’ hard! I do need to train this area! My hamstrings are weak! Julianna, thank you for making me take my vitamins!”

Okay, so the conversation didn’t really go like that, but you get the idea. I still hold fast to the idea that anything is permissible, but not everything is a healthy place from which to build a foundation. It is important in training and teaching that you set yourself up with proper technique and form. Train the muscles that are required to support your weight so that when you do choose to disengage and go all over the place, you can do so smartly and by choice, not because of muscle weakness.

There are two important lessons here:

1) Take your aerial vitamins. Example: Train the single knee hang in parallel before working in turn out or disengaging.

2) Don’t be afraid of the things that teachers say are wrong for form. Understand that they are only wrong for the vitamin version. Example: It is perfectly fine to release and go crazy in your knee hang, but if you have skipped your vitamins, you risk working on a weak hamstring, and your body may lack the ability to properly protect you from injury because it hasn’t learned the proper engagement.

For example, holding a hoop with thumbs wrapped is an important technique to teaching a beginner how to hold the hoop. This gives the grip more support and protects the student from precarious wraps. In fact, telling a student anything about their grip is a good thing because they need to get their body awareness to that part of their body and having something to focus on gets the right neurons firing to that part of the body. But, I have met many professional aerialists who haven’t given a second thought to performing moves without their thumbs wrapped. Does this mean we should throw out the old “thumbs wrapped method?” NO! It just means that professional aerialists get to make choreographic choices that may go against everything a beginning student has learned. That’s okay. It’s important to teach beginners so that they know the difference and understand that one day they get to make their own choreographic decisions as well.

Another example is engaged shoulders versus disengaged shoulders. Yes Yes Yes, it is important to have the shoulders engaged during technique training. Are there times when a professional aerialist may make a choreographic choice to disengage the shoulders during a static or dynamic movement? Yes! And it’s perfectly okay because they have all the body awareness, technique and strength required to execute it safely.

These issues can sometimes get a little uncomfortable to some. It is like the ballet dancer finding themselves in a modern class where the teacher is telling them to work in parallel instead of turn out and let go of their centers. It goes against everything they were ever taught! You will find some teachers have very strict standards about what is “right” and “wrong” as far as technique goes. The good thing is that they are teaching great form and keeping beginning students free of injuries. The down-side is that sometimes, they cling so hard to policing form that they do not allow the dance to happen.

For beginning aerial students, I say: Do not neglect your vitamins! You may want to jump straight into choreographic choices because they are more fun and feel better on your body, but you cannot neglect your vitamins! These come first.

For professional teachers, I say: Do not be overly concerned that another teacher is teaching something totally different from the way that you teach it. Maybe it is not always the vitamin strength the students needs, but more often than not, it’s not wrong. It’s just a choreographic choice. Have the wisdom to know the difference.





A major part of our vision from years ago is now a reality! We now have the infrastructure in place for members to login, post videos, pictures, events, list their studio in our directory, and have access to an enormous video library encompassing the moves from all of the manuals by Rebekah Leach and then some!

I want to take the time to tell you just what this site offers, and the intended usage of the video library. The videos will allow you to see all the moves from the manuals in action, with tips now and then pointing out key ideas. They are NOT detailed enough to learn from.

In some ways, they look like instructional videos. The move is shown from beginning to end, key points are highlighted, and at times, even the progressions are all shown. But, here is a list what is missing from these videos:


1) First of all, talking. We do not talk you through it enough for you to learn from. A live teacher is the only one who is qualified to do that.

2) A spotter. Sometimes a spotter gets directly involved, but a huge job of the spotter is to simply WATCH you and make sure that you are making smart choices as you navigate a movement. They can go “hey – stop! That’s not how to wrap that!” Or, when you have wrapped wrong, they can talk you out of a wrap, etc.

3) A ladder. This is hidden off screen when applicable, but at any rate, a ladder is your safety necessity if you are climbing more than 6 feet off the ground. This way if you get all tied up, someone (your spotter for instance) can run over with the ladder for you to climb on while you get unstuck.

4) Diagnosis of whether you are ready for that move. A huge part of your safety as a aerialists is only performing moves that your body has strength to complete. If you are attempting moves ahead of your skill level, you are putting yourself at a huge risk of injury. One of an instructor’s main jobs is to access whether you are ready for certain skills. If you go a studio where you are restricted from learning certain material until you have conquered X-Y-Z, then be happy! They are doing something right at that studio!


Now that we have gone over some precautions, let’s talk about the best ways to use this site:

1) As a student: View the moves that you have already covered in class to review that skill. Many times when first learning, things are a mess. There are a million changes in hand grips, transitions are going everywhere because you are not sure where you are headed in space. Watching the moves here can help you review how to place your body to move efficiently through the move. All moves shown are demonstrated with the utmost technique! For the moves you don’t know, feel free to bring them to your teacher and say, “Can we learn this move today?” Also, we have a ton of conditioning videos that will be coming up on the site. These will be great to add into your home workouts as long as they fit with your level and movement background, etc.

2) As a teacher: Come here to review the material you might teach to your students. You might also see a new variation of something, a way to give your students a fresh look at something, or a way to stylize that you haven’t thought of before. Also, if you are teaching material from this site in classes or workshops, and students would like to take video, you can point them here to review. That way they can stay focused in class instead of pulling out the camera. Also, the content on this site is geared towards beginning and intermediate levels. We can help give you plenty of ideas to help beginning and intermediate students stay interested so that they are not pushing themselves too fast to learn advanced skills before they are ready. We also have a ton of aerial yoga content including sequences that you can use in aerial warm ups in your classes.

3) As a performer: Get ideas for moves to add into your routine. You might learn a new move, or a new way to stylize an old one. You can also get ideas for training with our conditioning and exercise videos. You can also contribute to the community be sharing your own take on moves and how you change up a move to make it unique!


As part of the moves library, one thing we have is a place to write what you call the move. You can write in your own name, and feel free to use a different language. It would be great to see the names not just in English, but other languages as well.

Also, below each video is a place for you to comment and post your own pictures and videos. If you have variations of moves that you teach or perform, please feel free to share! We love contributors in this online community. We also have discussion pages where you are welcome to add topics and posts about topics including teaching, rigging, safety, training, performing, and more.

We are really excited about this new site, and hope you are too! Thank you for your support.



Aerial Yoga Teacher Training Programs

“Certification programs benefit both individuals and organizations. They document a level of proficiency attained in a particular field of study. Whether the certificate recognizes academic, technological or vocational accomplishments, earning one can boost the market value of the person and the institution for which she works. Professional certifications also help organizations find qualified job candidates.”

~  quote from ehow.com


A certification is an excellent thing to desire as someone desiring to teach in a particular field such as aerial yoga. They are meant to show that you have obtained a particular knowledge. They are designed to be a way to document from a third party source that you have put in time and effort to be good at what you do. However, the first thing you should know is that technically speaking, there is no such thing as a certification in aerial yoga, and for that matter, yoga, ballet, or aerial dance of any sort!


The aerial industry, just like the rigging industry and many others in the arts, do not recognize any certification programs.  This is due to the fact that what is valued in the industry is experience. Instead, there are teacher training programs, where you might receive a certificate saying that you took such-and-such a program and are now qualified to teach aerial yoga of such-and-such type.


As far as the closet thing to certification in the traditional yoga industry is what is offered through Yoga Alliance. They have helped set industry standards. You can be registered as an yoga teacher or yoga studio through a credentialing program, and you can become credentialed after undergoing a program that is 200 hours. Their program has greatly influenced the expectation that an aerial yoga training program will be about that length or even shorter if you are just adding to a knowledge base already present.


This is why aerial yoga programs are generally very short in length. Often, to qualify for the training with programs such as Unnata Aerial Yoga, you must already be “certified” in yoga. (Often times, the word certified is loosely used to mean a credentialing program of some sort.) Many other programs highly recommend that you come into the teacher training with a background in some movement art form. Again, it comes back to the fundamental thing that qualifies a teacher is experience.


Here are the aerial yoga training programs that I am aware of with a few of their quick stats to help you get a comparison for what they offer. (Note that I am simplifying things for the sake of comparison.)


Aircat Aerial Arts

Length of Training Program: 4 days which include 20 hours of in-person training + 25 home practice hours for a 45 hour certificate

Cost: $695

Unit Cost: $15.44 if you count the training you do on your own.

Commitment to License: None

Listing of Teachers/Studios who Received Training: No

Support Group: Yes, through Facebook.


Anti-Gravity (programs approved by ACE and AFAA)

Length of Training Program: varies

Cost: Unknown. However, it comes with bonus fees such as a testing fee at the end of the course that is at least $225, and fees such those needed to re-certify yearly (minimum $300).

Commitment to License: Yes. Franchise required.

Listing of Teachers/Studios who Received Training: Yes

Support Group: Yes – through franchise.


Kaya (certification in VaihAsaya Aerial Yoga)

Length of Training Program: 8 days (number of hours unknown)

Cost: $1,298

Commitment to License: None

Listing of Teachers/Studios who Received Training: Yes.

Support Group: Unknown



Length of Training Program: 2 days/month for 5 months for 100 hours certificate

Cost: 4 aerial modules at $250 each + 1 anatomy module at $250

Unit Cost: $12.50 per hour

Commitment to License: None

Listing of Teachers/Studios who Received Training: Yes.

Support Group: Unknown


Unnata Aerial Yoga

Length of Training Program: 8 days+ for 100 hours certificate

Cost: $1,700

Unite cost: $17.00 per hour

Commitment to License: Some. Limited License

Listing of Teachers/Studios who Received Training: Yes. They have the best listings on their website, which means that it will make it easy for potential customers to find you and/or check your credentials. Another bonus is that they train in a variety of locations such as NECCA and countries around the world.

Support Group: Yes. through Facebook.



Keep in mind that none of these programs will technically get you certified! These programs have different goals, and your choice on which program to undergo will have a lot to do with your own personal goals. Are you looking to piggyback on a successful franchise that has done a lot of advertising paving the way for automatic brand-recognition for your studio? Or are you looking for a program that will give you a good introduction to what aerial yoga is because you are thinking of incorporating it into your Pilates studio, gym, fitness center, yoga studio, etc? There are pros and cons to each. Hopefully, the end goal is the same in all: a qualified, well-trained instructor.


What makes a qualified, well-trained instructor is much more that what can be learned in a short teacher training program. It is just not possible to get everything you need to be a great instructor in less than 2 weeks. A lot of your choice should depend on what you are looking to get out of the training. For example, if you are interested in a program that emphasizes anatomy of the body, you may look into Rasamaya. They use a unique program called Anatomy in Clay, which allows movement artists–who tend to be kinesthetic learners–to get their hands on intestines, etc! (not real ones, silly!) Their training program includes 3 anatomy textbooks.


A quality, holistic training program would take a minimum of a year, and not everyone has that kind of time. My hope is that those people who seek a training program are those who already have an established self-practice, they have the gift of teaching, and can learn a lot in a short amount of time. Those are the ones who can benefit from a quick-style teacher training program.


The big benefits include being plugged into a community that supports you as you launch your first classes, a group to talk to about things that come up that first year, and a place to get ideas such as new sequences to teach beginning students. That’s what I see as the biggest benefits to a teacher training program, and many of the training programs offer just this advantage.


Michelle Dortignac, Founder of Unnata Aerial Yoga, has this to say about the advantages of the support group:


“Successful graduates of the Unnata Aerial Yoga teacher training program can join a Facebook group specifically for Unnata teachers.  In this forum I have seen posts of questions relating to teaching specific Aerial Asanas, how to work with different student sensitivities or injuries, sharing success stories, sharing innovations on the hammock, refreshers of Asanas learned during the course but forgotten since, business questions, Yoga philosophy questions (usually relating to the business questions), etc.  Unnata Yoga teachers from all over the world will chime in, and I contribute to the group regularly as well both through answering questions and also with videos and photos.”


It’s about the shared space, the community that forms, and the confidence that it instills to go out and do what you are most capable of doing. It is nice to say that you went through a teacher training to attest to the fact that you are doing everything you can to ensure you are a great instructor, know the best practices, etc. But, at the end of the day, the certificate of training doesn’t matter. What matters is how you grow as a person, and as a teacher through any program you choose to attend. What matters is that you plug into a network of professionals, who can help you be a great professional, and challenge you to quality work. But the majority of what you learn about how to teach will not be through any training, it will be through teaching.