AntiGravity yoga uses modified hammocks for fitness, health

Swing, float, fly through yoga class

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Floating through the air with the greatest of ease isn’t just for the daring young man on the flying trapeze.

Swing, stretch, flip, and fly like Cirque du Soleil contortionists or a certain superhero with spidey sense at Serenity Yoga & Pilates Studio in Iowa City.

There, a new form of yoga uses hammocks suspended from the ceiling to allow both seasoned yogis and newbies alike to defy gravity and get a workout at the same time.

AntiGravity yoga is new to Eastern Iowa. It was started by Christopher Harrison in New York City. After watching stars such as Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani use the hammocks on stage, he realized the potential fitness and health benefits and modified them for yoga.

Marci Evans, a yoga instructor and co-owner of Serenity, added AntiGravity to the studio’s offerings this year. The studio offers classes for all ages and experience levels, including prenatal yoga, Pilates, children’s yoga and geriatric yoga.

Evans underwent four days of intensive training — 12 hours each day — to learn how to safely teach AntiGravity yoga.

Trying Flying Yoga:

While not a yogi by any means, I’m familiar with more traditional yoga practices and saw some similarities in the poses, like “floating child’s pose,” a resting pose and “taut dog,” a mild inversion pose.

But the addition of the hammock allows for new poses as well, including the “Spiderman,” a pose where I was completely inverted, my legs intertwined in the hammock and my arms resting on the ground.

The hammock makes inversion poses — where the participant is upside down — easier, Evans said, which helps fully decompress the spine.

“As a middle-age female with Fibromyalgia, a herniated disc in my lower back and degenerative disc disease in my neck, I was resolved to living with pain,” said Joy Ashbaugh, an Iowa City resident and AntiGravity practitioner, over email. “I recently added the AntiGravity class to my fitness routine and it has been life changing.”

Being inverted can relieve stress and left me feeling clear-headed, too.

“Being upside down brings fresh blood flow and good hormones to the brain,” Evans says.

The use of the hammock also provides a deep tissue massage on hip flexors and other trigger points on the body — which can be beneficial for runners, she added.

It’s low-intensity, but also challenging by engaging core and upper body as well as deep stretches. It was scary, at first, to trust the hammock and the instructor enough to be able to let go, fall back and hang upside down.

Once you get the hang of it, the practice is liberating.

“You can swing, fly, flip and float in the air,” Evans says.

It is not recommended for those who have high or low blood pressure, glaucoma, are pregnant, or had surgery in the past six months.

There can be a bit of a fear factor, Evans said. Because there are only four hammocks at Serenity, classes are small and instruction is individualized. Private lessons also are available.

“We have small classes and a small number of hammocks. We want to keep people safe,” Evans says.

Wanna Hang:

 

  • Where: Serenity Yoga & Pilates, 610 Eastbury Dr. Suite 2, Iowa City

 

 

  • Price: $100 for six sessions

 

 

 

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