Regular workouts keep me in decent shape. But I’m always looking for ways to get faster, stronger, and more flexible. There are a myriad of options out there, which can be overwhelming for beginners and seasoned athletes alike. I’ll play the role of guinea pig and review some of the new and unusual exercise classes being offered around the region, with the hope you’ll find one that appeals to you and gets you moving.
I knew I was in for a wild ride when the first order of business was to curl up in a red cocoon that was dangling from the ceiling. Instead of kicking off this aerial yoga class at South Boston Yoga with some deep breathing, I was about to hyperventilate, as thoughts of “what have I gotten myself into” began to race through my mind. But before I could act on any of these thoughts, a voice calmly instructed us to unfurl. It was go time. I was about to defy the laws of physics and embrace my inner acrobat.
Aerial Yoga, also called suspension or anti-gravity yoga, combines the basic principles of traditional yoga with aerial arts (think trapeze). The regimen was developed by Christopher Harrison, a former gymnast and professional dancer, who found traditional yoga too hard on his injured wrists. The primary tool that set this class apart is the silk swing, tethered to the ceiling. The swings act as a support system, allowing you to stretch and strengthen your body without stressing out your joints or compressing your vertebrae.
The first sequence of movements was pretty basic. So basic, in fact, that it actually boosted the confidence of this yoga novice. But it wasn't long before things became more complex and I found myself hanging upside down. For the first few seconds it was fun. But that fun quickly morphed into fear as my body sprung into survival mode. Before class, our instructor had proudly proclaimed that none of her students had ever fallen off a swing. As blood rushed to my head and my tightly gripped hands began to shake, I was convinced that I was about to break their perfect streak. At that point it became a mind game...which is what makes yoga so great. It's not just physical, but mental as well.
I enjoy the occasional “slow-flow” yoga class for the stretch it affords my tightly wound muscles and the calmness it bestows upon my ever-racing mind. But here’s the thing about aerial yoga – it truly is a workout. While attempting to stay balanced, I found myself using muscles I never knew existed. It was days before the soreness dissipated from my hamstrings. My core muscles got quite the workout as well.
The phrase “don’t try this at home” holds true for this class. If you’re going to attempt aerial yoga, it’s probably best to do so in the safe confines of a studio with an instructor watching over you. I’ve heard the debate over whether aerial yoga is here to stay or a passing fad that will eventually fizzle. The jury’s still out, but it is definitely an exciting alternative to yoga for thrill seekers and fitness enthusiasts alike.
South Boston Yoga, www.southbostonyoga.net, Aerial Yoga: Tues. 6 – 7:30pm, Saturday 12:15 – 1:30pm, Sunday 5:45 – 7:15pm. Drop-in rate for a class: $15.