I’ve started doing AntiGravity yoga classes at my gym. That’s right, my gym is fancy (as well it should be; I’ve practically had to remortgage my life to pay for it).
AntiGravity what now?
What in the name of Zeus is AntiGavity yoga (?), I hear you ask. Also known as aerial yoga, it’s yoga with a silk hammock which basically allows you to imagine you’re some sort of circus god until you catch sight of yourself in the mirror. The hammock is super strong. It can support a baby elephant, apparently. The teacher keeps telling us this which makes me picture a class full of baby elephants. I’m not sure the ceiling could support that. At the start of the session the teacher helps us adjust the hammocks to our height. I’m over 6 foot so mine is adjusted to hang higher above the floor than the other hammocks. I can just about stand up in it and not scrape the ceiling; and can just about hang upside down in it and not scrape the floor. My advice is don’t be over 6 foot. Be 5 foot and then you can throw yourself around that silk with gay abandon.
Why do it?
Because it’s cool and it’s a great conversation starter on first dates. It was invented by some clever so and so in 2014 and whilst there haven’t been any scientific studies carried out on it just yet, it’s said that as the body hangs and stretches, the muscles and joints strengthen and the spine is decompressed. That’s good, right?
It’s also said that, whilst hanging upside down, the blood flow gives a deep tissue massage. I don’t know about any massaging but I can tell you that when you hang upside down you emphatically feeeeel the blood flow. It hurts. You think your head’s going to explode. The first class had me feeling nauseous. I assumed it was because I was starving (I hadn’t eaten for 2 hours and even then just a light breakfast to be on the safe side) but the teacher assured me that this was the normal feeling for a first class.
In my second class the blood coursing into my head still hurt but this time no nausea. Progress. Now, after my third class, I don’t really mind the blood rush. A woman joined the class for her first time today. She lasted 30 seconds upside down and then left. As with all yoga, you have to listen to your body but I wish she’d stayed. The nausea is kind of like a gateway: once you push through it you’re off; and hanging upside down is fun in a kind of carefree childhood way.
It never ceases to amaze me what tricks the brain plays when upside down though. I’m someone who has good coordination but hanging head down I loose all sense of direction. I become convinced that the mirror is the back wall.
Do I ever get to stand up?
Yes. Not all the poses are done in the sky, pretending you’re Cirque du Soleil’s greatest gift. There are lots of floor-based standing poses. However, the hammock is still integral to the practice. The beauty is that the silk can support part of your body while you work on another part. You quickly learn where your strengths are like this and it magnifies any balance issues.
As ever, today’s class was a seemingly ladies only affair but this time next to me there hung another guy. He had all the kit. Lycra this, Lycra that. I’m not convinced I could pull off the Lycra leggings look myself, though I do see the benefit. Some of the poses require binding the silk around the legs. The silk has to be bound tight so that it can support your weight, but without fabric coverage your flesh is exposed and the pain is real, my friends. COVER YOUR FLESH! Same for the top half. Vests are the enemy in this class.
Does it ever end?
After 70 minutes we start to bring things to a close. It’s the best part and I don’t say that in a defeatist way. To finish the class there’s 5 minutes of Shavasana (yeah, I know the lingo now). Lying down, wrapped up in our silk like it’s a cocoon, hanging from the ceiling, we get to relaaaax. Today, the teacher came by and gave me a push. For the rest of the class my cocoon swung in the breeze. Ahhhhhh. BLISS! I don’t think I’ll be joining the circus but I’m going to keep going back if only for that.