Be­com­ing a ‘ high- fly­ing’ yogi

Aerial yoga, the high- en­ergy ex­er­cise that uses the sup­port of ham­mocks to help peo­ple stretch, swing, And, yes, lev­i­tate up­side down, has fi­nally come to dubai. Jan­ice Rodrigues gives it A whirl

WKND - - Tried & Tested Have A Swinging Time -

My new year started with a cliché — the res­o­lu­tion to be health­ier. I vowed to bid farewell to my pizza- lov­ing ways and trash the Chi­nese take­out con­tain­ers that have taken refuge inside my re­frig­er­a­tor. How­ever, my much- amused friends were quick to point out that be­ing healthy meant more than just not eat­ing junk food. “You have to ex­er­cise,” they pointed out the ob­vi­ous rather smugly.

That’s eas­ier said than done since I don’t play any sport and have a prob­lem with ba­si­cally any form of ex­er­cise. Zumba? Needs too much en­ergy. Yoga? Too quiet — my mind tends to wan­der. But aerial yoga? I had to ad­mit, I had no ex­cuse there.

Yoga la Vie, a bou­tique yoga and Pi­lates stu­dio on the Palm, of­fered this un­usual ex­er­cise rou­tine which orig­i­nates from New York. It may ap­pear like peo­ple are hav­ing a ball ( what’s not to love about swing­ing around ham­mocks that hang from the ceil­ing?), but there’s a lot more to it. Also called anti­grav­ity yoga, it uses the sup­port of a ham­mock to take pres­sure off the body when do­ing stretches or hand­stands. The ben­e­fits in­clude all the ones that come with nor­mal yoga — strength­ened joints, bet­ter flex­i­bil­ity, im­proved fo­cus and stronger mus­cles — along with ‘ back de­com­pres­sion’ when the body is al­lowed to hang freely. Armed with this knowl­edge, I de­cided to sign up for my first class.

My in­struc­tor Deb­bie Baisly, a fit woman who hails from Eng­land, could twirl her way into im­pos­si­ble po­si­tions bet­ter than Tarzan could move from tree to tree.

“You have to learn to trust the ham­mock,” she in­formed me. “A lot of peo­ple tense up the minute they get onto it but the more re­laxed you are, the eas­ier it gets.”

It also helped to know that the ham­mock was good for 200 kg, so ir­re­spec­tive of how I felt about it, it would not rip out from un­der­neath me.

With some light mu­sic play­ing in the back­ground, we got started with a warmup. An­kles, wrists and shoul­ders were ro­tated. Legs and arms were stretched. Deep breaths were taken. We were ready to hop onto the ham­mock.

It was more com­fort­able than it looked. The ma­te­rial is a high- den­sity ny­lon vari­a­tion which is slightly stretch­able. With Deb­bie show­ing me the ropes, I was asked to stretch the ham­mock down with my palms, then bend down to touch the ground, ham­mock at my hips. My right leg had to be lifted so it was straight, par­al­lel to the ground. Once that was done, I hate to re­peat with my left. Ev­ery pose had to be held for at least five deep breaths, so you can­not for­get that this is in­deed a yoga rou­tine.

Since this was a be­gin­ner’s class, Deb­bie kept things sim­ple with a few bends, my palms and feet pressed flat against the ground ( al­though I never could man­age the feet part), the ham­mock firmly against my hips. This was the down­ward dog pose, she ex­plained — just with the ham­mock in be­tween.

Just when I was start­ing to get a bit more con­fi­dent, Deb­bie de­cided I was ready for an in­ver­sion.

“You mean hang­ing up­side down?” I asked, the hor­ror ev­i­dent in my voice. “Isn’t that for ad­vanced students only?”

Ap­par­ently not. In­ver­sions are an im­por­tant part of aerial yoga, and some­thing that even new­bies like me should be able to man­age.

Fol­low­ing Deb­bie’s in­struc­tions, I slid onto the ham­mock like it was a swing. Legs were brought up with my knees be­hind the cloth, and Deb­bie gen­tly tilted me till I was fall­ing for­wards — straight into an in­ver­sion pose! I’m not going to lie — the ham­mock’s pres­sure where it wraps around your hips isn’t fun, but it’s not bad ei­ther. Most im­por­tantly, the pose is much eas­ier than it looks, and it was free­ing to hang around, Spi­der­man- style. I was pretty chuffed with my­self.

“With the in­ver­sions, you may feel like you’re going to fall out, but if you just lis­ten to the in­struc­tor, physics says you can’t, be­cause your legs and hips will stop you from do­ing so,” said Deb­bie.

After the ease with which I man­aged an in­ver­sion, it was em­bar­rass­ing that I couldn’t do a sim­ple bal­anc­ing ex­er­cise later, one where I was asked to bend ( so my torso was par­al­lel to the ground), and lift a leg so it aligned with my back — all while hold­ing onto noth­ing but the ham­mock. Need­less to stay, keep­ing the pose for five in­hala­tions did not work out well.

After yet another in­ver­sion pose ( this one eas­ier than the last), we were done. I was asked to lie inside the ham­mock, cross my hands over my chest, close my eyes and sway. There’s noth­ing like it, es­pe­cially after those twists and turns, and I felt like I was gen­tly float­ing, my mind blank, my trou­bles far away. We fin­ished our ses­sion with a quiet ‘ Na­maste’.

Deb­bie’s classes do a lot of gym­nas­tics and flips and as she says, it’s ad­dic­tive. “The whole idea is to be able to re­lax, while also hav­ing fun. A lot of peo­ple are re­luc­tant to start be­cause they think they need to be strong but the truth is, you build strength within the swing. You’ll never know how strong you are un­til you try.”

So, if you’re willing to give it a shot, just trust your­self — and the ham­mock.

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