AntiGravity Yoga at Core Connection Studio

vampire pose in antigravity yogaOver 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:

antigravity yoga inversion

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. Continue reading

Paleo and the City: Lululemon and The Central Park Zoo

Over the summer I took my boys into New York City a few times. It was the first summer since going paleo so our jaunts included efforts to find paleo eats wherever we went. We were fairly successful. You can find most anything in New York so it stands to reason one could find plenty of paleo-friendly food. Afterall, paleo means eating meat, vegetables, some fruit and nuts and good fats – not really that hard. Of course, New York has its share of food temptations. We had to avoid the street vendors with dessert crêpes and falafel. We did not indulge in black & white cookies and cannoli. And we stayed away from Italian restaurants – with one exception, Mario Batali’s La Lupa. That was tough because, let me tell you, there are REALLY good Italian restaurants in New York City. Sigh.

Lululemon Athletica

I lugged my camera every time we went in and managed to get some fun shots. You can see a few of them in a previous post about our trip to Madison Square Park – Paleo and the City: Madison Square Park. That particular trip was during a week when my oldest son, Big Boy, was away at church camp and Sweet Pea and I were on our own. We took a second trip into “The City” that same week which included a stop at Lululemon Athletica (quite the yoga-wear Mecca). My husband G has gotten into yoga over the last year. He enjoys practicing when he has the time and appreciates the multiple benefits. Lululemon has a fantastic men’s line of yoga clothing. But even though G is quite comfortable in his manhood he simply cannot abide the name. He can’t bring himself to buy clothes from a store with “lulu” in the name. Maybe if they changed it to “Stevestevelemon” or “BobBoblemon” or simply “Lulemon”?? Next time I shop there I may buy him something but disguise it to look like it came from a more manly sounding athletic store. In spite of the unusual name, Lululemon sells terrific products. Everything I have purchased there has been great quality and has worn and washed well. The yoga top you see in the photo below came from Lululemon. Come to think of it, so did the hat.20111027-044307.jpg

Continue reading

Yoga and Christianity: The Meaning of Namaste

Even though yoga fits in well with the Paleo lifestyle (see previous post) I am certainly not a yoga expert. In fact it was not all that long ago I was reading “Yoga For Dummies”. But finding yoga to be amazingly helpful in relieving stress and increasing strength and flexibility has motivated me to learn as much as I can about the practice. One of the things I have learned is there is controversy when it comes to Christians practicing yoga. It does not come into play as much if you are attending classes where the focus is primarily on the physical fitness aspects. The problems arise when encountering the more spiritually focused yoga classes.

Rather than trying to tackle that subject in one post I will share just one aspect of yoga that is present in almost all classes regardless of type or location: use of the word “Namaste”. For those of you not familiar with the practice, it is a tradition at the end of class for the teacher to say “namaste” with students repeating the word. The spoken word is accompanied by a gesture in which your hands are brought together in a prayer position at your chest and you bow your head. Paleo Spirit Fitness Yoga NamasteIn fact, the word “namaste” comes from a Sanskrit word for bow. More specifically, the word “nama” means “to bow,” “as” is translated “I” and “te” means you. So “namaste” literally means “I bow to you.” It is used as a sign of respect from one yoga practitioner to another.

Namaste has also been translated to mean, “The divine in me bows to the divine in you”. For some Christians this can present a slight problem if taken literally. It could be argued it is wrong to bow to another human being, that we should reserve that type of respect only for God. I have even heard the argument that saying namaste is pantheistic and tantamount to worshiping other humans or elevating humans to a godlike level. If you are of this view or if the practice simply bothers your conscience my advice is to refrain from the gesture. Not participating will certainly not take away from the other beneficial aspects of yoga practice. However, I will give my personal view of the matter for those of you on the fence and questioning whether or not it is acceptable or wise for a Christian to participate in the namaste. I believe saying, “namaste” with the accompanying gesture is merely a sign of respect and is not in any way compromising to our faith. Remember, we are ALL created in the image of God:

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him: male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NASB)

C.S. Lewis spoke to this point in “The Weight of Glory” in which he points out there is divine in all of us:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.

As with some other aspects of yoga there is a need to have an understanding of just what we are doing and saying and the significance of those words and actions. I hope to explore this further in future posts. But while it is important to be careful with our words and actions it is also important to remember we are all, regardless of religious faith, created in the image of God. Saying “namaste” at the end of yoga class is a moment to reflect on this fact. It is a small gesture that shows respect for others as creations of God and dearly loved by Him. Namaste!