So I was delighted to find The Yoga Factory in Hillcrest, a new yoga studio offering not just the regular selection of yoga classes, but also something new to me ‘anti-gravity yoga’! Say whaaaat? I wonder; is this age defying yoga for specific sagging body parts? A levitation class perhaps? I decided to sign up for a class and find out, hoping that this might be the yoga salvation I’d been seeking.
My first class was a little daunting, not least because it was a class of exactly 1 – me! I guess that’s what you get for being an early adopter in a yoga studio that opened the very same day I turned up!
We begin with my teacher Mel, explaining the apparatus; basically 9 feet of silk fabric hung from the roof beams like a swing, which she assures me I’m safe to place my trust (= life in this case) as it will hold up to 1,000lb at any single point, and 5,000lb in total. I try to imagine in what scenario these might be tested to their limits… not to be mean but if you’re in the 1,000 – 5,000 lbs range I don’t think you’re gonna be in yoga class.
Anyway, this cocoon of silk was going to be my yoga home for the next 60 minutes as we performed what can only be described as a marriage of pilates, yoga and Cirque du Soleil but with fewer sequins, creepy double-jointed children and more incense sticks and funky music.
Here we go then – just me versus the silk yoga hammock, which by now I’ve named The Yammock. Move #1 turned out to be relatively simple – sitting in the thing, kind of like a swing. Not too difficult.
Then Mel gracefully swings her leg over one side of the silk to straddle it and round 1 of Jo versus The Yammock begins. Thankfully Mel had already pointed out that the moves didn’t have to be graceful at first as I did a great impression of a cat trying to escape a paper bag as I battled great swathes of fabric in an attempt to mimic Mel’s effortless move. Once in there though, it’s pretty cool. I’m totally enclosed in my little silk cocoon as it gently sways from side to side. Actually it was swaying kind of wildly after I’d been scuffling around in it but this soon settles into a nice rocking motion as we do some warm up stretches. I feel like I could live in this thing for a month and emerge a serene, fully-fledged yoga butterfly at the end.
No chance of that – we’re about to move into our first ‘inversion’ – yikes! 2 minutes later I’m hanging upside down with my legs being the only thing stopping me from plummeting to the ground. It’s actually a) surprisingly easy to get into the position and b) pretty comfortable once you’re there. Plus you really don’t feel at risk of sudden death in the slightest. Amazing!
Mel goes on to explain that AG Yoga is great for people with back problems (hurrah!) and actually makes you grow after every class (double hurrah!). This is particularly great news for me since I recently discovered that I’m not actually “almost 5 ft 8” as I’ve been claiming for the last X years and am in actual fact 5 ft 7 and a whisper. Unfortunately the growth increase results from AG yoga aren’t cumulative and are only short lived (boo!).
The next 40 minutes are the most fun I’ve ever had in yoga. We alternate between various hanging positions, core quivering exercises, flying moves … and my favorite “The Vampire”.
There are no oddly named positions that I have no hope of pronouncing or remembering in this class. The names make sense to me: inverted candlestick is an upside down shoulder stand, wheelbarrow looks exactly like a human garden vehicle. Flying move is… so cool… you close your eyes, yell swoosh and let go. I turn into a child again and don’t want the ride to stop. Vampire move is my favorite, it looks impossible but is actually incredibly easy to do, but when you’re doing it the core workout is incredible. I visualize that six pack I’m desiring and try to ignore the insane core trembling that’s going on in me.
Finally we end with a 5 minute relaxation inside The Yammock. White flags are raised and Jo and The Yammock become intimate friends as I curl up inside and chill for a 5 minutes. I don’t want class to end and I start to imagine how I might be able to hang one of these things inside our apartment (surely Rob won’t mind if I do some minor interior reconstruction to raise the ceiling?).
I’ve done it. I’ve found the perfect yoga for me. Who can’t like a class where you gain fitness, build incredible core strength, laugh a lot (which also helps tone your core) and fly like a bird, all in one session.
Best of all Mel is sweet and funny and she plays cool chill out music rather than a cacophony of squeaking dolphin noises, bird calls and crashing waves. Six classes in and I have noticed a huge improvement in my flexibility, core strength and ability to bend down in the morning and unload the dishwasher without groaning like a zombie… and yes once or twice I’ve actually managed a graceful move as The Yammock and I become firm friends.
Images: thanks to The Yoga Factory & http://paleospirit.com & www.sangrea.net