Over the past month I have had the wonderful opportunity to experience what is known as AntiGravity Yoga. Prior to a friend telling me about Core Connection Studio I had never heard of AntiGravity Yoga. After visiting their website and seeing photographs and videos of this most unusual practice I knew I wanted to find out more about it.
AntiGravity Yoga (also known as “Aerial Yoga”) is part of an emerging exercise field known as “suspension training”. It was developed by dancer Christopher Harrison (in the 1990s) as a training technique for gymnasts. It was launched to the public in 2007 in New York City. Harrison contracted Lyme disease in 2008 which caused his joints to freeze up and his muscles to atrophy. He used his own techniques in suspension training to get back to health.
The Core Connection Studio website describes it this way:
“AntiGravity Yoga combines traditional yoga principles with elements from aerial acrobatics, dance, Pilates and calisthenics. AntiGravity Yoga helps students realign their body and Spirit with the tool of gravity that serves to achieve physical and mental decompression. You will learn to fly, hold and balance in challenging yoga poses longer, gain better kinesthetic awareness, build cardiovascular and muscular strength, become more flexible, increase joint mobility, decompress the vertebrae of the spine without strain and utilize the agility you’ve gained from yoga to play with gravity! The class emphasis is to have fun while learning new skills while experiencing a total body workout.”
Class begins, like other yoga classes, with meditation, and then transitions to strengthening and stretching activities as well as traditional yoga poses modified for the hammock. You end the class in shavasana while cocooned in the hammock.
One of my favorite things about AntiGravity Yoga is the inversions. Inversions are poses that turn the body upside down to a point where the feet are above the head.
Here’s what an inversion looks like:
The above photo is my attempt at “Monkey Pose”. The picture was shot before I got all the way in the pose which would have shown my knees bent and my feet touching. But you get the idea. The first time I got into this pose my initial urge was to tighten up my back and core muscles. But once I felt comfortable I was able to relax the muscles and enjoy the lengthening sensation. Several people have documented an increase in height from doing inversions with the hammock. Even though I have not measured myself, I can attest to the intense stretching and feeling of spinal decompression and alignment. Being wrapped in the hammock ensures your bodyweight is more evenly distributed than if you were using “Anti-Gravity Boots” or something similar. This means the inversions are very comfortable. The AntiGravity class also provides what can only be described as the equivalent of a deep-tissue massage in certain poses when the hammock is tight across the hip flexors.
Here are a couple more examples of inversions.
The hammock assists with balance and the leverage it provides can help get deeper into several yoga poses. Doing handstands, handstand pushups and walking on my hands are some of my fitness goals. Using the hammock to practice is ideal because it helps stabilize the body while you work on strengthening the relevant muscles.
Core Connection Studio, where the philosophy is “Wellness First”, was founded by Dana Hedden. Dana has a background in cross-training; kick boxing; boot camp; Pilates; Spinning™; Body Pump™; weight lifting and boxing, one on one personal training. She has certifications with ACE, AFAA, NASM, and most recently AntiGravity Yoga. Her philosophy of fitness has evolved to embrace a more fun, healthy and spiritually satisfying way of working out. The whole AntiGravity Yoga practice and the idea of having fun while getting fit is very much in keeping with the Paleo Spirit. When you are not spending hours killing yourself with “Chronic Cardio” there is more time to focus on interesting and fun workouts like this that help you get strong and healthy.
My husband, G, recently joined me in an AntiGravity Yoga class. He has been practicing yoga for a while and ended up doing really, really well for a first-timer. After class Dana was nice enough to help my oldest son, Ben, get into the act. Here she is instructing him on how to get into “Vampire Pose”.
The jubilant “Vampire”! His face says it all.
Even though Antigravity Yoga is a challenging workout, you can clearly see this is fun stuff! In fact, the evening class I took was 50% men. That is the highest percentage of men I have ever seen in a fitness class. My suspicion is these men are reliving their days swinging on the monkey bars on the playground! But we should take a cue from them and embrace the idea that fitness should be as fun as possible and not drudgery.
The facilities of Core Connection Studio are gorgeous. The building is a completely renovated, old school house. The studio is bright, warm and sunny with large windows, high ceilings and high quality, aesthetically pleasing finishes and facilities.
They offer not only AntiGravity Yoga but also ballet barre fitness classes (based on the Lotte Berk Method) (focus of a future post!), hot Vinyasa flow yoga and more. Get information on their classes and rates here.
Here is a resource for the current locations offering AntiGravity Yoga worldwide. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to be near a studio and can try out a class. Even if you are unable to find a nearby AntiGravity Yoga studio I think it is interesting to see some of the newer ways people are getting fit and healthy without resorting to hours on a treadmill in the gym. (See the post Paleo Spirit Fitness: MOVE for more info on the benefits of low-key aerobic activity.)
I want to hear from others who enjoy the fun side of fitness. Have you ever tried AntiGravity Yoga? Would you? What do you do to have fun while you work on your health and fitness?
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