Seeing as my idea of getting some Glowology into our lives is through feeling good about ourselves and because exercise has been proven to lift the spirits and help beat depression, I thought my lovely readers might like to know about Anti Gravity Yoga – the newest form of yoga in town…
As I’m a sucker for a hotel with hammocks by the poolside cocktail bar, I thought exercising in large, floaty hammocks would be just my thing, but looking at the straps and buckles suspended from the ceiling in the fitness studio made me feel a bit cowardly custard.
My teacher, aerialist and yoga professional, Valentina Candiani measured my height against the red, silky hammock to get the fixings just right. Could she guarantee I’d be safe? I felt less anxious when she told me that the hammocks are specially designed and are certified by an engineer to hold at least 1000lbs – about the size of a baby elephant apparently. So, even with that extra slice of pizza I’d scoffed last night, I was safe.
At the beginning of the class, Valentina showed me how to gather the sides of the hammock so that I could lean backwards and slip inside, enveloping the rest of the fabric around me so that I felt as if I was back in the womb. Swaying gently from side to side, suspended 3 feet off the floor (but only 3 inches from the floor when hanging off the silk), it felt comforting and peaceful. Even when the class went on to pick up the pace with some limb lengthening and core challenging moves, the constant contact with the hammock kept me feeling calm and secure.
It didn’t take long to become confident and I was soon letting it all hang loose. Oh, about that: Check your clothing is snug as there have been cases of wardrobe malfunctions a la Janet Jackson! As I turned upside down with my feet entwined in the hammock, I felt an invigorating rush of blood to my head. I was hanging in the ‘monkey’ position and it was quite relaxing – I liked it!
I found out that hanging upside down is apparently good for the back, as it allows the vertebrae to stretch and realign. In fact, it’s been said that you can expect to be up to ½ inch taller after a class. Sadly, the effects aren’t cumulative so not matter how often you hang upside down, it won’t make you supermodel material 🙂
The effort of using my arms to hoist myself up to lift my legs over the silk then lifting up to bring them back – as if jumping rope – soon resulted in twitching muscles in the arms, stomach and legs. And the ‘wheelbarrow’ move where my feet were in the hammock as my hands walked forward into plank position was also a toughie. It makes sense that AntiGravity Yoga was developed by New York based fitness guru Christopher Harrison, a former Broadway dancer, gymnast and aerialist in order to give dancers a supported material to hang from to comfortably strengthen the core.
Even though Valentina’s acrobatic experience from her years performing at the Moscow State Circus made the hard positions look much easier than they are and I was definitely more clown than acrobat, I did push myself through all of the moves – at least giving them a try.
As the class wrapped up (literally) and we swung gently, ensconced in the silky hammock, I couldn’t resist a peak at the rest of the class. Taking in the image of red and orange pod like structures swinging from the ceiling, I imagined that should an alien land and look in through the studio window, he’d feel quite at home!
MY VERDICT AntiGravity Yoga is totally different to anything I’ve tried before and although it seems fairly daunting at first, it is suitable for all fitness levels as you can work at your own pace. It is as relaxing as it is challenging and radiates a feeling of fun and freedom. You can expect to work your core and give your body a thorough all over stretch. But be warned – do not eat before a class as the upside down and swinging could cause you to lose your lunch!
AntiGravity Yoga costs from £20 per hour class. To find a class near you contact www.antigravityyoga.co.uk. Virgin Active now offer classes to members or if you’re near W4, you can try a class at Anny’s Fitness Studio.