Off the Ground – Floating and Posing in Anti-Gravity Yoga
A regular yoga practitioner recounts her "dizzying" experience trying the much-hyped anti-gravity yoga. Her verdict? Keep the hammocks at vacation home's verandahs, or in Christian Grey's playroom.
I am probably the most laid-back and least ambitious yoga practitioner there is. After several years of doing it regularly, I still don’t know how to do headstand or handstand, nor do I care about being able to do it.
I always fail to remember the name of the asanas (the poses), except for shavasana, or the total relaxation at the end of the practice. My tiny brains keep thinking that they all sound the same – just like those drinks at Starbucks that all seem to end with “–cino”.
I don’t bring yoga mat whenever I travel either. I never really wanted to come to Namaste and Bali Spirit festivals, and when I do go to Ubud, Indonesia’s own boho haven, I opt for trekking and biking.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t take the practice seriously. After all, it’s the one form of exercise that I’ve committed to the longest. But it’s the therapeutic side, not the acrobatic parts, of it that I’ve always been attracted too. I love what it does to my posture, how my previously stiff body is now stronger and more flexible and agile because of it, and how heavenly the poses feel after a long day of sitting at work.
To avoid boredom, I like to take different classes or download videos of different styles of yoga, such as Ashtanga (like it, but too monotonous after a while), Yin Yoga (love it! It feels like being massaged) and Bikram (too hot, obviously, and it made me feel nauseous).
Recently, as an avid Instagram user (read: stalker), I saw a picture of a local celebrity standing on a hammock and the caption read “anti-gravity yoga.” I rolled my eyes, thinking that it was another gym’s gimmick, along with jazz yoga or yoga fusion workouts.
But my curiosity peaked as more pictures of people practicing it popped up, including the one from my favorite singer. So, I looked it up online to see which studio offers the class and rolled in recently.
Before the class, first timers had to fill in the form stating their medical conditions and signed the disclaimer that they understood the risk in taking the class.
Inside the class, about 20 square-meter, there were around 10 green hammocks hanging from steel blocks attached to the ceiling. These hammocks would help us practice inverted poses. According to my online research, while being ensconced within a hammock, we would achieve greater flexibility and deeper stretches.
I was a bit nervous seeing there was nothing beneath the hammock – only the wooden floor. But what did I expect? A safety net like in the trapeze show? Well, maybe.
I became more nervous when the teacher did not ask if any of us had ever done yoga before or if we ever had an injury or back problem. She did ask if there were first timers, and then basically repeating the questions on the form: whether we had heart problem, blood pressure, glaucoma, vertigo, or if any of us were pregnant.
“Don’t worry, the hammock is strong. It can hold up to 2000-pound weight, basically a baby elephant,” she said.
“You can take photos if you like, but please put the phone on silent mode,” she added.
Ah, that’s where the Instagram pictures came from.
And then off she jumped on to the hammock. We did a bit warming up inside the hammock, about 1 meter off the floor, and did breathing exercise. The next thing I knew, we had to stride the hammock, which was a bit tricky as it was wide and kept on swinging. Luckily, there was another teacher who assisted us.
From then on, it was a series of inverted poses including the monkey pose (hanging upside down with the hands touching the floor). It was a bit fast for me and I couldn’t see the teacher at the front clearly since the class was full. The assistant could not watch us one by one.
Halfway through the class, the teacher finally went around to check on us. “Well, nobody has scoliosis in today’s class!”
At one point I felt a bit dizzy and nauseous from hanging upside down. I told the teacher and asked the way to get up.
“Somebody’s dizzy? Who is it again?” asked the teacher, looking for where the question came from, as she passed me. Other students pointed at me, and the assistant finally helped me out.
“Ok, want to do vampire pose? It’s been a while. Let’s do vampire pose! Go on, take photos if you’d like,” said the teacher after going back to the front.
“The Vampire” is a sequence that involves a fast back roll, then forward roll to achieve the visual effect of a hanging vampire.
“This is one-legged vampire!” she shouted, adding another vampire-related pose.
An hour finally passed by. It was not as rigorous as I thought it would be. Nor was it as awesome as it was advertised. Some parts were fun, but I lost interest after a while, thinking that the best place for a hammock is at the verandah of a vacation home – or in Christian Grey’s playroom. And I wished the teacher were more attentive and informative.
So, for now, I think I’ll stick to the ‘traditional’ type of yoga. On the ground.