Antigravity yoga practitioners hang out (couldn't resist the pun) at Shine Alternative Fitness. Photo by Suwasit Ritthiphon.
I’m going to ask you to think about two things. The first, a timeless feature in many a childhood, is a swing set. (If you’re like me, other memories reminiscent of fifth grade come to mind.) The second is a hammock–any kind you want, perhaps surrounded by shady trees or a nice water feature.
Now, I’m going to tweak that vision just a bit. Imagine that you’re in a high-ceilinged space with mirrors on a couple walls and a mix of black marley and blue sponginess underfoot. Your hammock is a cheery shade of white or chartreuse, and it’s cradling you in a swing-set-ish way. And you’re not alone! Another eight or so hammock inhabiters are swaying gently beside you. (The water feature’s gone, although you’re free to keep envisioning it, if you like.)
Welcome to antigravity yoga with Kelly Millaudon at the new Shine Alternative Fitness, where working out is about more than ellipticals and swaying in hammocks is just the beginning.
The practice centers on the hammock itself, which is made out of similar fabric as what you’d see aerialists climbing and twining around onstage in a Cirque du Soleil show. Each hammock is suspended from the ceiling a few feet off the ground; it will comfortable fold into the crease of your hips when you touch your toes if it’s adjusted properly. This height allows you to traction out your spine and limbs without compression, a feat purportedly not accomplished in traditional yoga techniques.
You can sit on the fabric with it bunched up underneath you, like a swing, or you can lay out and have the material support you from top to toe — literally. You’ll have a single leg in the hammock to practice balance poses, or both legs in it with your hands on the ground to tone your arms and chest. A swinging, suspended savasana is the kiss-off at the end of the practice, a personal favorite of mine.
Don’t let the serene swinging fool you, though. The meat of the practice is a strength and cardio workout that features an ab series, upper body exercises and stretches that hone flexibility and balance. You know that runner’s stretch that makes your thighs burn at the gym? Imagine doing that with your front leg supported at the knee by fabric, precariously — or so it feels — teetering on your back toes. These challenges are what make antigravity yoga so enticing and addictive.
And it’s fun! A big focus of the practice is having a childlike sense of exploration, which is a pretty natural response to dangling a few feet above the ground. If you’re a newbie to yoga or inversions, never fear. Kelly is a master of projecting an aura of calm enjoyment and Suwasit Ritthiphon, a Shine cohort who is being indoctrinated into antigravity yoga teaching, is often on hand to assist. If anything, give it a go at least once. I bet you’ll be coming back soon.
Antigravity yoga classes are taught several days a week at Shine, located at 6415 S. Tenaya Way, Suite 100 (part of the Loftworks complex). For a full schedule, click here. A walk-in class is $25, with packages of 10 and 20 classes available at a slightly cheaper per-class rate. To learn more about antigravity yoga and its founder, Christopher Harrison, or to watch a quick video, check out the Antigravity Yoga homepage here. Happy hanging!