Each month this summer, we're featuring a successful studio and their Uplfit Active Gear.
August's Studio of the Month is Ageless Practice in the Atlanta, GA area (Gay, GA and surrounding counties). This month, owner Sonya Cousino shares her experience with finding her niche in the community, and the inspiration behind her aerial classes.
Sonya came up with the idea of Ageless Practice in a time of her life when she was in a high-pressure job. She says, "Life is too short to be stressed all day. Teaching yoga, you work with people who want to be happy and enjoy life. Anyone who doesn’t like what you have to offer does not come to your class, so it is a positive atmosphere." She was teaching yoga on the side at that time and wanted that to be her full day. It took some time but by diversifying and adding health coaching, Thai massage, and Aerial Yoga to the services, it all became possible.
Ageless Practice LLC originally was designed as an independent community-based service provider, offering yoga in churches, community centers, local gyms, and studios. Today Ageless Practice promotes health and happiness in the Atlanta area through a wide variety of services: SUP classes, Thai Massage, Aerial Yoga, Holistic Health Coaching, Corporate Wellness, and Aerial Yoga Teacher Training classes.
Sonya has been teaching yoga for over 10 years, so we asked her to share some of her knowledge and background:
What inspired you to practice aerial yoga?
We, my students and I, had just finished our first SUP (Stand Up Paddle Board) Yoga season and were feeling a bit empty. We needed something to fill that void. I had an old parachute fabric hammock hanging in my basement that I never used. It sparked my interest and the students and I have been enjoying flying together since January of 2018. (After I had become a certified aerial instructor, of course!).
How and why did you become a yoga teacher?
I was pushed to become a yoga instructor by the fitness director I was working for at the time. I considered yoga to be “easy and boring” and I had no interest in that type of fluff exercise. But, I smiled, said “sure, I’ll do it”. After the first training in 2008, I was a bit more educated about yoga and it has been my passion since. AND, it is a complete full body, mental and physical, workout when you apply the right techniques.
What do you love about aerial yoga vs regular yoga or other forms of fitness?
The fabric does the work and you reap the benefits of a good supportive, effective stretch. For example, Swan/Crow pose on a mat is impossible to get much from for many students. The fabric eases you into the pose so you can get an effective hip stretch and most can get a shoulder stretch using the fabric too. Since starting a regular aerial practice in September 2017, I have noticed an increase in the flexibility of my front body and a huge difference in the flexibility of my shoulders. This has made many more poses accessible like holding my ankle with both hands for Dancer’s pose. A nice surprise after working on that for 10 years. Last of all, the flying (no feet touching the ground) and the inversions are exhilarating and have numerous benefits. The frequent flyers and I love the challenge and thrill of working through these poses.
What is your go-to pose and why?
I call my go-to pose “hanging by a thread”. My neck and shoulders get so tight to the point that it is difficult to turn my head at times. This pose releases that stress. That is a day changer. Plus, it is just fun.
What is the most common mistake you see students doing in Aerial Yoga and how to prevent it?
When moving into Inverted Frog, students often lift to sit on the fabric. However, to be secure in that inversion, we need to step backwards and lean back on the fabric to secure it under the sacrum and above the sitting bones. When students are not comfortable with that set up, we make bum hammocks, spreading the fabric out wider so it hugs the entire gluteal area. The bum hammock makes some future poses accessed from inverted frog inaccessible. However, there will be no future poses if the student falls out of Inverted Frog on their head, LOL.
What advice would you give to future aerial yoga studio owners or teachers?
I literally got nauseous after EVERY aerial class I took over the years. I was determined to get past that. All it took was a bit of knowledge like when and what to eat prior to class, not to continually invert and stand up when learning how to do inversions and the use of recovery poses. Of course, a regular practice also strengthened my vestibular muscle, allowing me to stay in inversions longer and do more poses in an inversion. If students feel sick, they are not going to want to return. It is exciting to see students stretch, strengthen and accomplish inversions during class and leaving on a high (pun intended!).
Learn more about Sonya and her upcoming classes online at Ageless Practice here.
Looking to find your own niche within aerial yoga? Check out these FREE lesson plans for Kids Aerial Yoga.
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Whether times are good or extremely challenging, many of us need a community to embrace -- even if our only way to connect has been virtual for much of 2020. Now that some aerial studios are allowed to start to open up again, many aerialists and aerial yogis will be breathing a sigh of relief as they anticipate getting back to the practice.