Health and wellness

Why a Hong Kong outdoor aerial yoga teacher is making a splash with her ‘over water’ classes

Aleksandra Milewicz is bringing aerial yoga outside the studio and into nature with Bamboo Yoga, an exceptionally photogenic workout which provides a new challenge for even experienced yogis. Valerie Teh gives it a go

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 September, 2017, 12:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 September, 2017, 5:13pm

Aleksandra Milewicz is on a mission to change your views on yoga. The fashion marketer turned yoga teacher is one of several practitioners in Hong Kong out to prove that there is more to yoga than going through a series of poses on a mat in a studio.

Inspired by countless yoga variations that have gone viral online, Hong Kong studios have run everything from yoga on stand-up paddle boards to yoga with your dog and even the occasional beer yoga class – all just this year. Tapping into this zeitgeist of experimentation, Bamboo Yoga is Milewicz’s attempt at bringing aerial yoga, usually taught on low-hanging hammocks indoors, outside the studio and into nature.

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Milewicz began teaching outdoor aerial yoga workshops this summer in the idyll of Sai Wan beach in Sai Kung, spending her weekends guiding students into various poses on aerial hammocks held up by sturdy bamboo tripods.

It is not only Hong Kong’s sole outdoor aerial yoga offering, but also arguably the city’s most photogenic workout. The novelty factor, plus ample opportunities for envy-inducing photographs, have proved popular with Hong Kong’s fitness enthusiasts since Milewicz started running the classes in June.

Aerial yoga with a side of hiking sounds like the perfect antidote to a stressful week of crouching at my desk, so I opt for a half-day “hike and fly” session (Bamboo Yoga also runs a full-day session for beginners, which includes an introductory morning aerial yoga class at Yoga BamBam in Sheung Wan).

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Our group meets Milewicz in Central to journey across Hong Kong to Sai Kung, where we hike an easy 45 minutes down to Sai Wan and get to know each other along the way. Most of my fellow “fliers” are regular yogis who have taken a number of aerial classes, addicted just like I am to the novelty of hammock-assisted poses as well as the ability to extend our range of movement. All nine of us are looking forward to trying aerial yoga outdoors for the first time, in the beautiful surrounds of Sai Wan.

On the beach, we are led through a short flow yoga warm-up by Milewicz’s teaching assistant, Chloe Fung, as Milewicz sets up the unwieldy bamboo rigs. Once the tripods and hammocks are secure, the two supervise up to five students each on rotation for a 90-minute session. We go through standing poses such as the tree before inverting into a basic star and more complex moves such as the bow and aerial yoga splits.

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The hammocks are hung higher than they would be at a regular studio, to allow plenty of room between your head and the undulating waves for inversions. However, even experienced aerial yogis will tire quickly doing yoga in this way, as there is no ground to rest on in between poses. It is a price we are willing to pay, though, for the opportunity to freely flip, fly and pose for enviable photos over the sea – a big draw for all of us participants in the image-conscious age of #instayoga.

The idea for Bamboo Yoga came to Milewicz after she completed her aerial yoga teacher training in Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand, where she first practised aerial yoga at the beach and over water. Milewicz chose to use bamboo poles for her tripods not only for their weight-bearing properties – well-advertised throughout Hong Kong by the extensive bamboo scaffolding that surrounds buildings under renovation – but also because they hold greater meaning for her.

“Bamboo symbolises strength, both literally and symbolically,” she says. “It is the perfect material for Bamboo Yoga because both bamboo and yoga have an equal and perfect balance of grace and strength.”

For Milewicz, one of the most rewarding elements of Bamboo Yoga is seeing people take their yoga sessions off the mat.

“I feel grateful that I am able to show people [through these sessions] that there is more to yoga, and that it can take place in beautiful nature, away from the studio,” she says. “If Bamboo Yoga inspires people to get outdoors and try something new, and to challenge themselves to go beyond their comfort zones, then my job is done.”