I Tried It: AntiGravity Yoga

A Look Inside the Aerial Yoga Trend

Students BackBend in AntiGravity Yoga Class
AntiGravity Yoga Class. RyanJLane/E+/Getty Images

Have You Ever Thrown a Fist Full of Glitter in the Air?

Unless you are a certain pink-haired pop star, I'm going to guess the answer to that question is no. But don't let that stop you from going all Cirque de Soleil when trying out AntiGravity Yoga. I couldn't get Pink's amazing performance at the 2010 Grammy Awards (chills, people) out of my mind from the moment I hoisted myself into the AntiGravity Hammock for the first time.

Luckily for the weak-stomached (me), there was no upside-down twirling in the first class, but there was enough acrobatics to make this workout fun and challenging.

What Is AntiGravity Yoga?

AntiGravity Yoga is the leading proprietorial method in the aerial yoga trend. Developed by former gymnast and dancer Christopher Harrison, AntiGravity Yoga provides a workout that allows you to stretch and strengthen without over-stressing your joints or compressing your vertebrae.

The key to AntiGravity Yoga is the hammock, a swath of silky fabric that acts as your support system. Using the hammock, you learn to invert and hang suspended in the air. The hammock supports your hips for forward bends and backbends. It acts as your seat for any number of variations on the ab-tastic crunch. It can be looped around one foot as you stand on the other for versions of standing big toe pose and king dancer, applications that are reminiscent of an Iyengar-style ropes wall.

Best of all, the hammock wraps you in your own little cocoon for a gently swaying savasana.

But Is It Yoga?

The definition of yoga can be as wide or as narrow as you like. AntiGravity Yoga moves are derived from Pilates, dance, and calisthenics, in addition to yoga. What was missing from the class I tried was a focus on the breath, which is what some would argue makes yoga yoga.

In this way, it was a bit more like a fitness class. Now, I'm not someone who goes in for things like cardio funk class. I like my yoga - a lot. But I can see adding an AntiGravity class into my rotation because it has a reciprocal relationship with yoga. The strength and flexibility that you get from yoga help you do the AntiGravity poses, and, likewise, the AntiGravity poses offer a new way to cultivate strength and flexibility.

Tips and Observations

  • It is usually advised that you practice yoga on a empty stomach, and that is especially true of AntiGravity Yoga, what with the inverting, spinning, and pressure of the hammock on your abdomen.
  • Long pants and a shirt with sleeves are must-haves, since the hammock can dig into your arms and legs under the weight of your body.
  • I felt some pain from the hammock when it was under my hips in forward folds, though my teacher assured us that this abates with continued practice.
  • I also have mild arthritis in my finger joints and I found that some of the poses where you have to grip the hammock strongly were hard on my hands.
  • Those with certain medical conditions, such as glaucoma and high blood pressure, are advised not to undertake this practice, so be sure to check your medical history against this list.
  • As with any yoga practice, coming prepared with a sense of humor and a willingness to try new things goes a long way toward making an AntiGravity Yoga class a fun and relaxed experience.

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