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Meet Body Positive Influencer and Aerial Yoga Instructor Danya Avner

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Danya Avner, a body-positive influencer and aerial yoga instructor with more than 530K followers on TikTok, wants you to know aerial yoga is for all body types. In fact, she posts videos daily to prove it.

“Last March, I posted a video that went viral. More and more videos kept going viral. (I received) thousands of comments from admirers,” says Avner. 

Avner started aerial yoga by accident. In 2016, she thought she was going to a barre class, but it ended up being yoga. Around the same time, she was watching a TV show that piqued her interest in the aerial maneuvers she’s known for.

“I was watching this show… the scene was in an aerial yoga studio and they were upside down. I thought it looked really cool and one of the characters was plus-size and she made it look easy,” she tells Curvicality.

Avner wanted to take classes but lived in an area that didn’t offer any. When she later moved to a city in Maryland where classes were offered, she took the leap. Literally.  

“I found a yoga studio based on the fact that they offered aerial yoga. As soon as I got into the hammock for the first time, I went upside down … and I was hooked,” she says. “It’s like that for everyone. You either love it or you hate it.” 

Avner had to book classes months in advance due to a waitlist. To get more aerial time, she took a summer teacher training program. She had no idea she would go on to regularly teach.

“I had no desire to be a teacher at all. I just thought (training to teach) would be really cool and I’d get to meet other people … a cool socal opportunity and be able to deepen my practice,” she says.

Six months later, a friend asked her to do a photo shoot for a new studio. She hit it off with the owner. A month later, they called her to substitute teach. 

“I was terrified because really I had no intention of teaching. It’s not my comfort zone to get up in front of people,” she says. “But I went and I taught and I had zero nerves. As soon as I started teaching, it all went away. And then I got a regular class with them and started teaching at other studios.”

Aerial Yoga Instructor Danya Avner - Curvicality Plus-Size Magazine

A common question Avner gets is: What’s the weight limit? The answer is that almost everyone can do aerial yoga. 

“The equipment will support you. The hammock … is a synthetic tricot fabric. And it expands to 9 yards wide and however long you want it to be. The hammock is not going to rip or tear,” she says. 

She wants those with safety concerns, plus-size or not, to know the equipment is stable. The hammock utilizes rock climbing hardware attached to support beams. “As long as the foundation is stable, you’re going to be fine,” she says. 

She also wants potential participants to know aerial yoga classes are body positive. “The aerial community is welcoming and encouraging. Nobody cares what I look like and everybody wants to see you succeed, no matter what your level is. Once you nail a pose that is challenging to you, everybody in class is going to clap and cheer you on.” 

So how do you start an aerial yoga routine? 

“Look for a beginner class,” says Avner. “And if the idea of being upside down is intimidating, look for a restorative class. A restorative class is lower to the ground. So instead of being (totally) off the ground, your feet or shoulders are off the ground. You get the benefits and your body gets to learn what it’s like to be in those positions.” 

Aver says your body is capable of more than you realize. “I’m just amazed at what I’m able to do. When I first started yoga in 2016, I couldn’t reach my toes in a forward fold and I can do the splits now. That’s one of my favorite things to do.”

Set aside concerns about what other people think. “As soon as I decided that yoga was going to be my thing, I made a switch in my mind that I don’t care what people think about me or if my shirt rides up or if you accidentally see my stomach or something that’s unflattering. I am doing this for me. I have so much energy and clarity, mentally and physically, which is why I keep going back.”

Avner acknowledges that her confidence has changed over time. “As I started posting on Instagram, I would be super highly critical of myself and I would not post something if there was a bulge here or if my shirt was out of place there … I’m doing really cool stuff. The more I posted, the more positive feedback I got from people. Really, TikTok is what changed everything.”

Aerial Yoga Instructor Danya Avner - Curvicality Plus-Size Magazine

So how do you start an aerial yoga routine? 

“Look for a beginner class,” says Avner. “And if the idea of being upside down is intimidating, look for a restorative class. A restorative class is lower to the ground. So instead of being (totally) off the ground, your feet or shoulders are off the ground. You get the benefits and your body gets to learn what it’s like to be in those positions.” 

Aver says your body is capable of more than you realize. “I’m just amazed at what I’m able to do. When I first started yoga in 2016, I couldn’t reach my toes in a forward fold and I can do the splits now. That’s one of my favorite things to do.”

Set aside concerns about what other people think. “As soon as I decided that yoga was going to be my thing, I made a switch in my mind that I don’t care what people think about me or if my shirt rides up or if you accidentally see my stomach or something that’s unflattering. I am doing this for me. I have so much energy and clarity, mentally and physically, which is why I keep going back.”

Avner acknowledges that her confidence has changed over time. “As I started posting on Instagram, I would be super highly critical of myself and I would not post something if there was a bulge here or if my shirt was out of place there … I’m doing really cool stuff. The more I posted, the more positive feedback I got from people. Really, TikTok is what changed everything.”

Aerial Yoga Instructor Danya Avner - Curvicality Plus-Size Magazine

Benefits of Aerial Yoga

One of the biggest benefits Avner sees is a better critical thinking ability. “I think that aerial yoga makes you think critically. You have to listen to instructions that you have no idea where they’re coming from. It’s learning to think from a whole new perspective, literally.”

It also helps participants to develop listening skills. “You don’t realize when you’re taking this class … it’s kind of a learning curve. You’re listening upside down and backwards. You have no idea which arm, which direction when you first start. There’s a big benefit to that.” 

In addition, aerial mat yoga helps yoga participants with inversions. “I didn’t think I had the ability to get my feet up over my hips so that I could do a handstand. I use a wall for support, but the hammock lets you know how to do inversions safely so that you’re not afraid to fall,” she says. “You really get to focus on getting your body into the right position so that when you’re on the mat and trying these poses, you can get into them and hold them. That ability is there. I can do inversions only because of aerial.”

Participants also build strength, flexibility and balance. “They all go together, but the hammock is going to push your body further than you would normally push yourself on your own … The fabric is supporting you. You build strength as you go through everything. In the hammock, you’re lifting yourself up.”

Further, it’s a great core workout. “Balance engages core. You don’t feel how much work you’re really doing.” 

Avner’s Advice on Body Positivity

Avner finds both literal and figurative lessons from aerial yoga — freeing yourself from gravity as you free yourself from others’ opinions.

“I think that we need to stop letting other people dictate how we see ourselves, and how we let that control our lives, no matter what your size. And I think that people just need to learn to not give a (darn). If you live for yourself and do things that give you pleasure and fulfillment, then you shouldn’t let what other people think affect those things in your life.”

“I am also very big on tik tok. I have over a half a million followers with a large body positive following and people who want to start exercising. Little girls and their mothers.” She’s a role model. 

For more, follow her on TikTok @aerialjunkie or on IG @danyalee. 

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