I wouldn't call myself a yoga fanatic, I've been doing beginner's yoga on and off for a couple of years. I enjoy it, but it's a bit too slow for me. At the end of a workout, I like to feel energized, not like I want to lay down and go into a deep hibernation. So when I saw something about Gwyneth Paltrow giving "aerial" yoga or "flying" yoga the thumbs up in her ridiculously uber-healthy blog GOOP, I thought I'd give it a try. Anything Gwynnie can do, I can do better. Haha, kidding, GPal. Don't kick my ass.
Anyway, so I got up Saturday morning and trekked to AntiGravity® Aerial Yoga studios in Manhattan.
The company was founded by Christopher Harrison in 1990. It's been a fav of celebrities like Madonna, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey, and an AntiGravity Aerial Yoga troupe performed at Barack Obama's 2009 Inauguration. But none of this intimidated me. Haha. Of course it did.
Aerial, or "flying" yoga, is all about doing yoga moves while being suspended from a silk hammock that dangles about three feet off the floor. The benefit of this is that it gives you more support when you do yoga poses because the hammock is holding you up. Instead of balancing on your head, as advanced yogis do, you can balance upside down on the hammock and get the circulation and spine-lengthening benefits of inversion without the potential of crushing your neck.
That doesn't make it necessarily any easier. In fact, I found portions of it much harder than yoga -- even the more advanced yoga classes I've just begun taking. However, I'd mistakenly jumped right into an advanced aerial yoga class. When I told my instructor that at the end of class, her eyes widened. Oh well.
That said, I was totally shocked at some of the things I could do fairly easily that I thought for sure would kill me. Like kicking my legs over my head and doing a flip until my feet landed on the floor. With the hammock supporting my shoulders, this wasn't as hard as it looked. I also didn't think I'd be able to get my feet straight up in the air with my head pointed at the floor, but I somehow managed that too. However, if you allow fear to creep into your mind for even a second -- you might bail. You just have to trust in the hammock (it can hold 1000 pounds!) and in yourself. Get back to that kid who used to climb trees and hang upside on jungle gyms.
My instructor, Josie, said that students can grow an inch just from one class, and while that seems a bit extreme, I definitely felt more lengthened the next day. My back was aching a bit too, but not much. My skin also had a nice glow from hanging upside down. I haven't been upside down that much since -- well, ever. Pulling the hammock around you at the end of class and burrowing in your "hammock womb" while you lightly sway back and forth was more relaxing than the typical yoga corpse pose too. Best of all, you leave feeling energized, not sleepy.
Would you try aerial yoga?
Image via Kiri Blakeley