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Chandeliers and Silk Cocoons: My First Experience with Anti-Gravity Yoga

Posted Nov 26 2012 4:30am

Oh friends, have I ever got something to tell you about today!

You may recall that one of my goals for November is to try 3 new-to-me fitness classes, in addition to doing 2 Insanity workouts per week and generally trying to see how fit and strong I can get before the end of the year. Well, one of the classes I decided I needed to try was anti-gravity yoga. It’s not a widely offered program but having read some reviews by some of my fellow US fitness bloggers, I was intrigued and wanted to see what it was all about. Images like the one below had me thinking that it would be somewhat of a relaxing experience.

Part of the reason I hadn’t attempted anti-gravity yoga yet was because one of the only times it’s offered is 11am on a Sunday. This is usually my rest day, and 11am is WAY later than my typical workout time! However, about a week ago, I finally made the decision to haul myself there to try the class. The schedule stated that it was ranked ‘Intermediate’ in difficulty, but didn’t think anything of this at the time. After all, I’ve never in my life walked into a fitness class and not been able to do the workout… until this one.

When I arrived at 11am, I thought the class had been cancelled because the studio was empty. In a few minutes, I was joined by another anti-gravity yoga newbie, the instructor, and a member who does the class regularly and is amazing at it. The instructor told us that normally, she doesn’t allow people to do the intermediate class that haven’t done the beginner one first. Again, I brushed it off and figured I’d be just fine. She was willing to let us stay “as long as we felt we could carry on.” I mentioned that I’ve done a lot of yoga, so I didn’t think I’d have too much trouble. She responded with “Well, actually, it’s more helpful if you’ve done a lot of gymnastics.” Negatory. Do I look like a gymnast? I can touch my toes (which earns me ‘flexible’ status… amongst the super-stiff cyclist and runner community anyways) but my parents yanked me out of gymnastics lessons at age 4 after a couple of weeks and threw me out on the soccer field where we soon realized I was far better suited.

It was the mention of gymnastics that gave me the long overdue thought of, “Hmm.. maybe this wasn’t going to be as easy as I hoped.”

(Source)

Before I describe what we actually did, below is a video that gives a little anti-gravity yoga class sample. Your weight is supported by a hammock-like sheet that looks harmless and is totally comfy when stretched out… but don’t be fooled – these aren’t just sheets… they’re a recipe for very, very sore muscles (especially if you hang on to them with a death grip for an hour as I did.)

Those introductory poses that the instructor in the video above does, which you’d probably recognize from traditional yoga – sun salutations, warriors, etc, weren’t a part of the class I went to. From what I learned, the class does normally have a flow to it, but because it was just myself, another newbie, and a very experienced anti-gravity yogi, the instructor modified things so we could learn the basics. I was very appreciative of this!

After a short warm-up (which I can’t quite remember), she had us do flips using the hammock, sort of like those gymnast ring flips that I used to do on our neighbour’s swing set when I was younger. It turns out that my adult body is a little out of practice, because I only managed to do one! After trying several times to hoist myself up and do a few more, the instructor finally let us move on (and she didn’t boot me out of the class – bonus!!) Even though I wasn’t a pro at these flips, I still felt willing take on a few more challenges. The other newbie left at this point because she wasn’t comfortable with all the upside-down-ness that was to come. Since I’m crazy, I stayed.

Next it was time for what’s known as the chandelier series of poses, or if you’ve ever been to see a Pink concert, it’s the sequence she does in her shows. In the video above, it begins at the 2:11 mark. I’m sure that the process I went through to get into this pose was nowhere near as graceful as Pink – and I didn’t even have to do any singing!

After the chandelier series, we did a few more poses, many of which required spending a lot of time like this:

(Source)

We finished the class in a cocoon sort of pose, which looked a bit like the below picture, only in a lying down position.

(Source)

As I walked out of the room, I wasn’t too sure if I’d enjoyed myself or not. On one hand, I’d certainly pushed myself out of my fitness comfort zone by trying something new. I’d also challenged my flexibility and upper body strength, which I began to realize more the next day when my arms felt like I’d hoisted a truck above my head. My neck and head, on the other hand, weren’t doing so hot. After having spent so much time upside down, my head felt like a balloon, especially the area around my eyes. I’d eaten breakfast about 2 hours before the class, yet I still felt a bit woozy driving home and in need of something to snack on.

(Source)

The next day, my neck was quite sore – again, I figure this was due to the upside down poses and straining those muscles as I worked to bring myself up into seated positions. But am I saying that I don’t like the class and won’t do it again? No. Part of this was my own fault for not having attended a beginner class first, and I’m sure that after working with the hammock/sheet for a while, I’d be more comfortable with it. Although I didn’t get an endorphin rush from the experience, I was certainly very humbled!

So tell me….

  • Have you ever tried anti-gravity yoga? What was your experience like?
  • What’s the most humbling fitness-related endeavour you’ve ever faced?
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