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. Continue reading