“It’s a glorious giggle fest because the minute you get in the hammocks you just start laughing,” said Jamie Dickenson, the owner of Yoga Power. “I don’t know what it is. It just makes you feel like a kid again.”
After trying aerial yoga for the first time in Florida, Dickenson felt happy all day and knew she wanted to bring it back to her home state of West Virginia when she opened her studio. Dickenson explained she loves to practice everywhere she travels, so it was natural for her to stumble upon aerial yoga in Florida. She began her yoga practice 10 years ago and opened her own studio, Yoga Power, two years ago in Charleston, West Virginia.
Being the first to bring aerial yoga to its community was part of Yoga Power opening marketing strategy, and now it’s a service that in many ways markets itself. “It’s so interesting because people will come in and take yoga and leave,” said Dickenson. “They don’t come in and take pictures of themselves and their friends. But aerial yoga they stay an extra 10 or 15 minutes to take photos.”
The staff will even have to start hanging up hammocks at the end of classes because the students will keep playing in their hammocks and taking pictures and videos of themselves after the class ends. “So from a studio standpoint, it’s great; just the marketing of it is unbelievable. It markets itself,” said Dickenson.
The majority of Yoga Power’s aerial students are teenagers and college kids. “It’s not like my natural or normal yogis,” said Dickenson.
With the popularity of the class they offer aerial every day, sometimes twice a day — depending on what teachers are available and what works with the schedule. They try to offer extra classes specifically on the weekends and in the evenings to accommodate that market of young students.
As for getting the equipment and proper training for her studio to offer aerial yoga, Dickenson took many precautions. Having the hammocks hung was taken very seriously, because after doing some research she found how easily they can be hung improperly and lead to damaging the studio and injuring students. So not only did she have them professionally hung by contractors, she also had 11-foot ceilings to ensure plenty of room for tricks. The hammocks require a lot of space to hang, and then of course to swing. Dickenson said “swing factor” was a big consideration for how many hammocks they could fit in their studio space. At Yoga Power, they have 21 hammocks so they can accommodate 20 students and one instructor.
Then, Dickenson had to find a teacher willing to come to West Virginia to train her staff, since no one in the area was offering aerial yoga at that time.
For other studio owners considering offering aerial yoga, Dickenson recommended taking into consideration the maintenance the hammock silks require. It would be very difficult to have aerial yoga if you didn’t have laundry facilities. “For the silks, it’s really difficult to keep them clean and fresh smelling, so we really do a lot of laundry and washing out the hammocks. It’s a lot of intensive manual labor just to hang them up and get the class started, and then keeping them fresh,” said Dickenson.
The studio has extra hammocks to clip and unclip in the instance that some don’t smell as fresh, and the bulk of their employee’s work after the classes is making sure all of the hammocks smell fresh — by washing them, smelling them, spraying them with air freshener and interchanging them when necessary.
To prevent the hammocks from getting any odor, they request students wear long sleeve shirts, but that doesn’t always happen. Along with long sleeves they recommend tight-fitting clothes so students don’t get tangled in the silks and so their clothes aren’t falling off when they flip or hang upside down. Lastly, they don’t allow jewelry because it can get caught and pierce the hammocks.
After taking all of the necessary precautions, aerial yoga turns into a giggling, youthful environment. Yoga Power offers beginner, intermediate and advanced classes. In the beginner class it’s mostly just learning to navigate the hammock, and then once students progress they can learn tricks, flips and drops. Another difference in classes is the height of the hammock. In the beginner classes it’s positioned closer to the ground and then in the more advanced classes it gets closer to the ceiling so there’s more room for tricks.
“Everybody wants to get upside down. When we first started in our beginner classes we weren’t flipping people, and they were disappointed in the class. So after about a week I was like you know what — just flip them upside down,” said Dickenson.