Tag Archives: gentle

AntiGravity Yoga with Emily Conradson at Om Factory

Emily Conradson at Om Factory
Emily Conradson at Om Factory

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 180. 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.

Restorative Yoga and Qigong at Namaste Williamsburg

Last week I took two great classes at a cute little studio in Williamsburg, Namaste. They have been around for a year or two now, and I’ve been meaning to go by; classes are by donation and I’ve heard good reviews. Finally, the return of my shoulder pain overrode my normal vinyasa class, considered a jog instead, but finally opted for something new. Qigong!

Erin
Erin

Erin, the qigong teacher, has studied it for eight or nine years, and did her teacher training with a senior teacher who’s since moved back to Japan and named Erin as her East Coast heir. She gave me a great overview of its principles. (I knew it was something like tai chi… slow movements focused on moving or storing energy… but didn’t know what actions to expect. She said they’re similar; tai chi is supposedly a bit more active.) Qigong is the basis of all martial arts. You’re gathering energy from the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, west), each of which relate to an organ, and a secondary organ, and the elements (earth, water, fire, metal). For example, when we face south, our kidneys face north, which brings water to the kidneys. Studying qigong, you’ll learn these relationships in more detail, but for my first class she suggested just following the movements they’re healthy even if you don’t know what you’re doing.

We started with a short meditation, and then a nice self-massage of our arms, legs, hands, feet, and head. Brisk strokes down the outsides of our legs/arms, and up the insides, cleared any energy blockages. Thumps across our muscles and joints did the same.

We began the exercises in a wide-legged stance, dropping the hips back as if a primordial tail were our third leg of support. We circled the hips in figure eights, bringing focus to the primary energy center three fingers-width below our navels: the Dan Tien. Throughout class we returned to this spot in name and with gesture, letting its energy flow down to the perineum, run up the spinal cord, and split across the arms, or condensing energy into the belly with a movement of the palms.

We practiced two main exercises, with ten or twenty movements each: soft steps to the side, arcing arms, tucked tailbones, flexed fingers, fixed eyes. I felt clear and graceful, as if I were walking on clouds. Gazing into my palm, I felt it tingle, and smiled as I turned it back to my belly.

By the end of class, the headache I’d walked in with had GONE. My shoulder was feeling much softer, too. It was a very satisfying meditation in movement.

Debbie
Debbie

That same week I went to Restorative Yoga with Debbie, the owner of Namaste Williamsburg. (Leaflin’s post on restorative yoga fired me up, if you can be fired up for restorative yoga.) I’d just received an intense email from an ex-boyfriend (note: DON’T OPEN THOSE) and thought maybe I could process it better laying on my back. With two bolsters. And a block. And two blankets. And an eye pillow.

(Restorative yoga makes me feel like Steve Martin in The Jerk: “I don’t need any of this. I don’t need this stuff… Just this ashtray. And this paddle game… the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control… The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches…”)

We started in a seated meditation, butts on blankets against the wall. Pressing our lower backs into the wall gave a supported, elevating feeling to the spine and breath. (No one can sneak up on you with your back against the wall, and the ribs have concrete support from which to expand.) Debbie calmly led us deeper into our bodily sensations; her voice could launch a thousand audio books.

Our first pose was supported Half Bridge, with a blanket under our head and back, and a block under our sacrum. She encouraged us to use the first or second height of the block; the third is too intense when holding the pose for ten minutes. We rested in the pose, focusing on the breath, letting the blood reverse its downward flow through the torso. The eye pillow really helped to calm the mind, which follows any dancing or resting movements of the eyes.

We held two other long poses in the 90-minute class. Legs Up The Wall was great for my achy feet, pounding from the miles of city pavement I’d walked that day, and soothing for my lower back. Reclined Butterfly, our hip opener, added a bit of intensity and vulnerability. Relaxing into those feelings was challenging but ultimately rewarding. By the time we hit Corpse, I had melted into the floor. This was meditation on stillness.

I don’t know if I “processed” any of my confused emotions that class, but it was definitely therapeutic to relax as they flickered across my mind. A cup of tea and a nice chat with Debbie afterward sealed the session with bliss.

The studio also offers several Hatha classes, tending towards the classical style I think. They’re great for beginners full of alignment instructions and patience. The studio has a cute, friendly spirit, and I look forward to more meditations there.

Beach Yoga

The first day, there was a small cross on the hill. The next day, there was a pirate flag.

Last week I vacationed w/family in the Outer Banks. A big shady deck with an ocean view might just be my dream yoga spot, and I don’t even like the beach. I have not felt so motivated to get up and practice in a while. Morning practice was easy, and daily! My aunt and sister joined a couple days, which helped. It reminds me of the importance of environment and how weird it is to do yoga in a huge city.

On tired days, I started off with some reclined hip openers and seated spinal stretches. On energized days, I went straight into gentle sun or moon salutations, and did more standing poses, bends, and balances. I came up with a new warrior sequence that I liked a lot, I did it all week. Here are the chunks:

“I’M TIRED” WARM-UP

  • Wind Relieving Pose (hug the right knee into the chest)
  • Reclined Spinal Twist
  • Straighten leg to the sky and point/flex/circle the foot
  • Pilates Circles with the whole extended leg
  • Reclined Side Soldier (take Yogi Toe Lock and open the leg to the side)
  • Reclined Extended Spinal Twist (switch hands on the foot and take it across the body)
  • repeat on the other side
  • Single Leg Raises (10x, up and down to the count of 4)
  • Double Leg Raises
  • Bicycles (10x, holding for 3 counts each side)
  • Full Body Stretch and sit up

“I’M TIRED” QUICK WAKE-UP
(short version of http://www.yogogogo.com/classes/?p=10)

  • Camel Ride (sitting with hands on knees, flex spine forward and back w/Breath of Fire)
  • Chinese Drum (hands on shoulders, twist left and right w/Breath of Fire)
  • Shoulder Shrugs (hands on thighs, lift and drop shoulders w/Breath of Fire

BUILD-A-SWEAT

  • Sun or Moon Salutations (3-6 each side) with focus on BREATHING and LIGHTNESS
  • Triangle (both sides)
  • Wide-Legged Forward Bend
  • Extended Side Angle (right side)
  • Forward Angle (right side)
  • Forward Angle Bind (hands clasped behind back)
  • Humble Warrior (slide back foot back, drop head to floor)
  • Warrior I
  • Warrior II
  • Reverse Warrior
  • Vinyasa and repeat on other side
Balance on Jockey's Ridge

BALANCE POSES (choose a few)

  • Topping Tree (from Humble Warrior, straighten front leg and lift back leg towards sky)
  • Half Moon
  • Crow
  • Tree
  • Dancer
  • Flying Crow

BACKBENDS (just the Sivananda basics)

  • Sphinx or Cobra
  • Locust
  • Bow

GROUNDING

  • Seated Forward Bend
  • Reverse Plank
  • Seated Spinal Twist
  • Various Seated Twists (Marichyasana I-IV) after boogie boarding hurt my back

LONG-TIME POSES (essentials, held 10 breaths to 5 minutes)

  • Headstand
  • Shoulder Stand
  • Bridge
  • Full Wheel
  • Fish
  • Corpse

Each day’s version varied slightly, and at no point did I do all poses listed above, but the general arrangement stuck. I lost my breathing practice, though. I did some Breath of Fire in the poses, but I only did Alternate Nostril Breathing once. (That instance, however, was delicious and way more appreciated after missing it.) I meant to do both this morning before leaving for the airport, but 5:45 was already way early for my freelax body.

I’m heading out to Amanda’s Sweat & Flow tonight… or the park?

A Simple Sequence

Here is my practice sequence from last week. I’ve been trying to rest a hip strain (the massage therapist and acupuncturist said it needs 4-12 WEEKS of rest), so this gentle sequence from Dr. Amrit Raj was much appreciated. (He was in town for a “Yoga & Ayurveda” workshop at Exhale.)

This is a light sequence, safe for anyone. We did about 10-20 reps each one. The numbers in front are just my mnemonic device. Start off sitting, with legs extended.

10 – Flex toes about 10x (inhale point, exhale flex)
9 – Flex feet about 10x
8 – Circle ankles about 5x each way
7 – Flex knee about 10x each side (clasp foot, bend knee to chest, then straighten leg)
6 – Flex hips about 10x (butterfly position inhale up, exhale forward)
5 – Round spine and roll forward and back about 10x
4 – On stomach, hold bow pose about 30 seconds
– Rock forward and back about 10x
– Rock side to side about 10x
3 – Clench fingers about 10x (sitting, with arms extended up)
2 – Flex hands about 10x
1 – Circle wrists about 5x each way
0 – Circle shoulders about 5x each way (with arms bent, hands on shoulders)
1 – Turn neck left, right, up, down about 5x
2 – Turn eyes left, right, up, down about 5x

Then 5 minutes of alternate nostril breathing
Then 5 minutes of meditation

I did this every morning last week, and by the middle of the week a chronic charley horse in my foot was completely gone.