Yesterday I hopped up to the Garment District to see some old friends. Om Factory has launched their third yoga room, fully equipped for AntiGravity Yoga.
What in the world is that? Silk hammocks, hung from the ceiling, used to support or expand your typical yoga poses. It was developed by Christopher Harrison, founder of AntiGravity Inc., an NYC-based entertainment brand that began as an Aerial Performance Company in 1990. During down time in rehearsals, the dancers would hang upside down in the AntiGravity hammocks, suspended 30 feet from the floor. They noticed that it felt GREAT, and so they lowered the hammocks and fused it with yoga to create a class to share with the world.
I went to a Restorative AntiGravity class, where the hammock becomes an amazing supportive surface for stretching and massage. Where else can you lie on your side or belly and actually be COMFORTABLE? I’m so used to a rubber mat on a wooden floor that I forget it doesn’t have to be that way. I can lie in a silk cocoon.
Emily Conradson, the director at Om Factory, teaches the Restorative AntiGravity on Tuesdays. (She also teaches Vinyasa and Forrest — she assists Ana Forrest’s own workshops.) Her radiant smile and contagious enthusiasm lighten up any lengthy hold or unfamiliar pose. She led us through a whole-body decompression.
We stretched the sling out like a hammock, laying back for side and back bends. I felt like a worm, or a fetus, hidden inside the soft fabric. I must admit a bit of flailing as I figured out how to move again. We did Supta Baddha Konasana, and the hammock instantly supported each limb; no fussing around with blocks and bolsters. Sitting up, the hammock became a chair. We gathered it up like a rope, supporting our hips, and hung upside down. You get the benefits of inversions without the pressure.
Later on, we moved to the floor, so we could lean or pull on the hammock from below. It’s like a pair of hands reaching from above, supporting your hips in Bridge, or your heart in Fish. You can lean forward in a Wide Legged Forward Bend, with soft support for your head and arms. The class was gentle and soothing, in a whole new way.
The constant stretching and traction felt great on my spine and neck. Especially with Emily’s adjustments; she’s currently studying at the Swedish Institute of Massage, so her adjustments are microscopically good. But there were some moments of intensity; Down Dog with the sling was a super intense psoas massage. Emily calmly led us through them, guiding our breath into the pressure, and I came away feeling lighter. (She has that effect on people.)
Classes can also be a workout. The standard AntiGravity class is a burner, known for “shredding” your abs. Emily showed me Plank with both legs off the ground, lifting the hips up to Pike Handstand, back to Plank, then twisting them forward into Side Crow. My abs hurt just watching it. Pigeon can be done with one leg in the hammock, extending your range past 180º. Dancer becomes a whole new pose as the hammock repositions your center of gravity.
Om Factory is the only studio in town offering AntiGravity Yoga right now. (Crunch has classes, but you need to be a member.) Wear a tshirt, versus a tank, since the hammock will be across and under your shoulders and arms. Class is definitely worth checking out; it’s a whole new vocabulary of sensation.