Aerial Yoga / Antigravity Yoga for body and mind
A style of yoga growing in popularity in Australia is called “antigravity yoga.” Anyone with a limited notion of Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton’s scientific principles knows to experience a loss of gravity requires a departure from Earth’s gravitational forces. Possibly a visit to outer space? Unless you have dreams of becoming one of Richard Branson’s future Virgin galactic astronauts, where you can venture into space for a (mere) US$250,000 investment, this style of yoga provides an opportunity to defy gravity at a considerably lower cost.
I was in Byron Bay over a long week-end with a group called Getaway Girls I wanted time to nourish mind, body and soul. The coastal sea-side town of Byron Bay, renown for its laid back lifestyle and relaxed beach culture, is the perfect destination for such intentions.
Numerous places in Byron offer yoga classes, but only a few present the antigravity yoga (also referred to as aerial yoga). When our all girl group met at the shed at Shooter’s pass in Byron’s hinterland, Kaylene Napoli, owner of Getaway Girls assured us antigravity yoga novices, “were about to experience something very unique.”
Website findyoga.com.au state antigravity yoga was established in 1991 and describing as “a fitness regime designed to increase one’s overall health and physical agility, while having fun and creating beauty.”
Antigravity yoga is performed using the antigravity hammock, made from a stretchy, silk fabric connected by two overhead points. The soft fabric offers gentle supports to parts of your body. Advocates suggest this style of exercise provides relief to any compressed joints and helps with re-aligning the body.
Yes it is yoga, but this is yoga with a difference.
“This style of yoga includes a combination of dance, pilates and calisthenics techniques,” says Arianne Schreiber, our class instructor.
We line up in front of individual red hammocks, unsure of what to do next. “Regular attendees of this class require fitness, strength, stamina and discipline,” says Arianne, “but for today I will show you some basic uses of the hammock, nothing too complicated.”
“Phew,” we all exhale, feeling relieved.
Arianne gently coaches the Getaway Girls through the first moves. Initially it feels strange and a little awkward using the fabric as a soft trapeze to support your limbs. After a few attempts, (accompanied by giggles and a few curses) under Arianne’s expert and patient guidance, we master simple inversions. Our confidence grows and we try more complicated poses. It becomes less daunting and is actually fun. At varying times we alternate using the hammock like a swing, then a trapeze, unleashing our inner circus performer.
Christopher Harrison, is founder and creator of the internationally renowned entertainment and fitness brand AntiGravity®. Check this out Christopher Harrison: Youtube clip Published on 8 Oct 2013
Harrison’s artistic direction has created some visually stimulating aerial dance sequences including Pink’s use of the antigravity hammock for her rock tours. I saw one of Brisbane shows and her use of the swing was stunning as well as athletically defying. (4)
When was the last time you found yourself suspended upside down?
As children, we’d swing upside down on playground monkey bars, (now banned because of health and safety issues.) In the Shed, as I’m swinging inverted style, I feel like a kid again. The blood rush to the head initially felt quite intense but Arianne reassured the group, “there are health benefits to hanging upside down with your blood flowing in the opposite direction.”
With my head feeling strangely heavy and my sinuses pressing on my eyeballs I can’t say it felt good at the time. But following a few spins, twists and stretches effectively supported by the soft silk, my sinuses were forgotten. I gave in to the sheer bliss of floating while gently stretching my body.
“We all desire that feeling of wanting to fly,” says Jayne Bernasconi, teacher of aerial dance at Towson University, Baltimore, USA. “Aerial yoga is the closest thing to flying.” (5)
“By bringing the yoga philosophy into the aerial world, it helps people better understand their bodies,” says Jayne. “It also helps people get over their inhibitions, like getting their feet off the ground.”
One of our Getaway Girls, Megan had a lamindectomy (back surgery) some years ago. She was understandably hesitant about getting her feet off the ground and was not feeling confident about swinging upside down like the rest of the class. However, with gentle encouragement from Arianne and our group support, Megan overcame her fear and let go. With happy shrieks, she too was hanging upside down like bats ready for sleep.
By the end of the class we were sweating. Rock star Pink’s trainer Dreya Weber says antigravity yoga is a great method to achieving fitness. “Antigravity yoga is a gentler approach to aerials, where you can do all the moves, without needing a tremendous amount of upper body strength.”
The class was over. A feeling of comfort and peace overcame me as we gently swung in our silk cocoon. My aerial couch was rocking me to sleep. When Arianne brought us back to the present, I resisted waking from my reverie, not wanting to leave my snug cocoon.
“Antigravity yoga is so effective at aligning your spine, after a class, you grow taller,” says Christopher Harrison.
Not sure if I was any taller after my first class, but I felt an incredible sense of achievement. We all did. Floating supported only by soft silk is sublime. Its an experience we should all try and one I won’t forget! Just be prepared to step outside of your yoga comfort zone.
A chance to defy gravity, but stay on planet earth.
(1) Getaway Girls
(3) Christopher Harrison: Youtube clip Published on 8 Oct 2013 Watch AntiGravity Founder Christopher Harrison perform Aerial Yoga at the Launch of AntiGravity Fitness Instructor Training Academy.
(6) Pink’s youtube video training aerial dance