A yoga practice should complement your physical health, emotional temperament, and intellectual interests. Yoga can be practiced by reading books, or volunteering, or meditating, but the physical exercises are a popular place to start. Here are a few aspects to consider. Continue reading →
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.
Tonight I felt simultaneously tired and tense. I turned down a job, and was all worried about upsetting the friend who offered it to me, and finishing a web project that’s over my head, and prioritizing the clients that are all reappearing at once, and grieving my boyfriend’s upcoming seven-week trip to France. So I needed to clear out my stress, but I’ve done strong Vinyasa (and DDR) for six days running, so I wanted something restorative. Like a massage.
I went to Tai Chi at Greenhouse, which I’ve been meaning to do since… always. It’s just one of those things that sounds great to have done, but never quite inspires me to get there. The Thursday class is for new beginners, so it was my day.
The instructor, Jon, was perfect — giving a brief what, why, and how of Tai Chi in general, but soon getting into movement. He said when working with energy, it’s better to just watch and try to copy the movements, than to intellectually memorize and reenact them. Mirroring gets us out of our heads and into the Dan Tien, the main storehouse of energy (just below and behind your navel). The main principle is to relax completely, and follow the Dan Tien.
There were two concepts that would be great as themes for yoga classes:
Welcoming the ground, versus pushing away from it. When he said this, and I felt my feet spread and tailbone drop, my lower back became completely relaxed. In yoga, there is a lot of lifting up and pressing away from the floor, in the standing and balancing poses. We are supposed to have an equal energy of rooting, or grounding, but I’ve never felt it as much; it’s one of those clichéd phrases I have started to tune out. Feeling grounded is somewhat obvious in the seated or inverted poses of course, but I still understood it more as “bones and flesh against the floor due to gravity.” This phrase “welcoming the ground” was much more effectual — I get it now — and physically widespread. It would be good to approach the standing poses with this idea; they can become very aggressive and agitating if we’re only practicing lifting, pressing, stretching and holding.
Left and right; moving completely from one to the other. We took a slow walk in a circle, to start. Then, Jon had us shift our weight completely to one foot before moving the other. Everyone became much slower, and quieter. The free leg became much lighter and more agile. He said this complete transfer of weight lets the free leg empty, a nice image. My Russian friends call it “sharking” when you shuffle your feet as you walk. This walk was the opposite, boldly moving from one discrete foot to the other. 100% weight in one leg, he said; find the tailbone right over the weighted foot. (In other stances, it was a 70/30 split.) Finding full stability in one leg is one thing, but I’m curious to feel the free leg empty in various one-legged yoga poses or transitions.
I couldn’t help but make metaphors with life, about how we react and move. So if you see me staring at your butt on the subway platform, I promise I’m just watching the way you walk.