I Tried It: Anti-Gravity Yoga
A few of years ago I saw Pink perform at the Grammy's and was taken by her performance. Watching Pink flying in her silks, balanced in the air with elegance, poise, strength and best of all—apparent effortlessness—left me breathless.
I'm not a gymnast, a trapeze artist or a pop/rock singer (darn it). I live in a small town without much going on. A few years back, when Reebok, in conjunction with Cirque du Soleil, launched their Jukari trapeze-style work out, I desperately wanted to give it a shot...but I was not willing to drive to L.A. for a class.
Recently, the gym where I teach Spinning classes (shout out to NC3 Fitness in Murrieta) added Anti Gravity Yoga and they gave us a demo class. I tried it yesterday with my almost 14-year old daughter.
HERE'S HOW IT WENT
We started with floor standing warm ups and stretches, and the hammocks gave us extra support and helped with balance. Anti Gravity Yoga is really good for stretching. I was in the far back of the class (hiding), though, and couldn't see the teacher (the amazing Cindy Santos who has contributed to this blog) very well, so I'm sure I wasn't doing everything right (I bunched the fabric the wrong way at some point). Plus, I've never "yogaed" before so I don't know the terminology. The woman next to me had such an amazing body and super long legs that I couldn't look to her for guidance, since I felt very short and pudgy in comparison (and she's had four kids! Sheesh, lady).
Luckily, though I'm short and pudgy—ha, ha—I am very strong. I'm not sure someone who hasn't been working out consistently could do some of the moves. You need a lot of upper body and core strength (single leg planks with one foot in the hammock, for example, or bridges on straight arms with feet in hammocks). The strength portion of the class was reminiscent of my beloved TRX Suspension Trainer, so I was able to hang (pun intended ) with it. Cindy did offer modifications, so it's certainly doable for most.
At first I thought my head would blow off my neck while upside down, but after a bit I got used to the pressure. My daughter didn't like the blood rush to her head, so she stayed upright (though she did a backward flip where I declined. I'm a sissy.) I noticed, once I relaxed, that my spine immediately started to feel better and less compressed (kind of like being on a much cooler version of an inversion table). Another bonus? My boobs were back up where they belong.
When we changed to "hammock in the front" moves, I decided my hammock must have been a little too high because it pressed into my stomach and was uncomfortable. It was suppose to be at hip level, but my legs were just too short for the setting (but—dilemma—since my torso is long, if I have it lower and go upside down I might touch the floor. Hmmm).
At the end of the class we got to climb into the hammocks and gently swing. They lowered the lights and Cindy gave us a gentle-voiced pep talk, encouraging us to relax and let go of stress.
I am a little sore today in my butt, back of thighs and rear shoulders. Some of the moves we performed were similar to ones I used to teach in barre class (but with silks) and it's been while since I done them. It's good to feel my butt muscles again.
I am also a tiny bit tender around the low back (tissue sore rather than muscle sore) where the hammock was resting for our upside down adventures, but it's not bothersome at all and to be expected. I watched the promo video of Anti Gravity Yoga's segment on The View where they opened the hammocks more and sat in them before inverting. I think that might be the way to go for people who are heavier, since it distributes the weight more evenly. My back felt more limber last night, though, which is a huge positive. I get stiff from sitting so it was a welcome relief.
Bottom line is that I will try it again, now that I know more what it's about and what to expect. I felt a little spastic the first time (I'm a fitness instructor???), but the more you practice, the better you get. I become a little stressed when trying something new and find it hard to focus. Next time I will lower the hammock a little to see if it feels better on my tummy, too. I'd also like to try some other moves as we progress. I see there is a whole range you can do and some look super fun. Variety is key to getting, and staying, in shape.
Should YOU try it?
Unless you have major health problems, I would say yes—at least twice. It's going to take one class to get use to it, and a second class to feel like you can actually do it. And even if you decide it's not for you, hey—at least you got to fly!