Metro: We tried anti-gravity yoga and turns out we love to hang

Picture: Getty

This article originally appeared on Metro.co.uk on Tuesday 3 January 2017, and was written by Miranda Larbi. To read the article on the Metro website, please click here: http://metro.co.uk/2017/01/03/we-tried-anti-gravity-yoga-and-turns-out-we-love-to-hang-6355189/


Sometimes trying to master even the simplest yoga move can feel like you’re attempting to defy gravity. If man was meant to balance on one leg with the other tucked under his crotch, surely we’d have been built like flamingos.

So an actual anti-gravity yoga class was met with some trepidation when suggested to the Metro.co.uk team.

A quick Youtube scan confirmed that we’d be spending an hour with our faces precariously swinging inches from ground thanks to some flimsy-looking hammocks.

Though undeniably impressive, being able to fold your body like a pretzel while dangling in the air doesn’t sound like a recipe for yogic meditation. So, what’s the point of it? And how difficult is it actually?

The concept was apparently devised by Christopher Harrison of Cirque de Soleil who, during a period of post-injury recuperation, discovered that hanging onto bits of fabric suspended from the ceiling made certain yoga positions easier.

We went down to a class at Virgin Active to see if that was actually true.

To begin with, we watched our instructor demonstrate what anti-gravity yoga actually is. She started with a couple of basic-looking stretches before launching into something she called ‘The Vampire’.

This was essentially a feat of human origami which involved wrapping herself in the silky fabric before doing a couple of flips and ending up with her body hanging just above the floor, arms and ankles tied above.

Incredible scenes. And, I thought, completely impossible for first-timers to achieve.

But the point about origami is that although the results might be incredibly impressive, the steps are logical. All you have to do is meticulously follow each instruction and you too can be holding a minutely folded animal. Or, in this case, be one. First off, let me just say that with all things yoga, it’s probably easier the shorter you are.

If you’re a short-a*se like me, getting in and out of the hammock isn’t too much effort and tumbling around the fabric is quite straight forward.

If, however, you’re some 6ft+ giant like Metro.co.uk’s George, who also took the class, things get more complicated. Occasionally, he looked like a gangly piece of prey that a spider had wrapped in a red web ready for dinner. Limbs flayed. Elbows and knees took on a life of their own.

George was also pretty hungover so there was a real fear that at some point he’d be swinging in his own vomit. But it turns out that hanging upside down with your shoulders pinned back is pretty effective at clearing away any lingering nausea (he did disappear for a while after the class but whether this was for a cheeky chunder or a shower is unclear).

We started by just getting used to the hammock.

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At first, it feels flimsy but once you’re in, I reckon it’d be pretty hard to tumble out. We started by sitting in it, stretching out our quads before getting out and doing a series of chin-up type moves.

I have no upper body strength; my main resolution for 2017 is to finally be able to master the monkey bar frames at my local park. As a result, I’ve literally never been able to do more than one chin-up in my life. But with the hammock? It was like I’d been body building for the past decade.

I can’t explain why because it’s not stretchy, but the fabric seems to have a lot of give. When you jump up to grab the bits that hang from the ceiling, it’s far easier to pull yourself up and stay up than if you were trying to hold onto a poll or piece of metal.

Next, we attempted backflips. Again, I’m no gymnast, and George is certainly not (sorry G), but I was backflipping like Simone Biles after five espressos. You simply have to wrap the hammock fabric around your hands three times, jump up and lean backwards. Your legs can catch onto the fabric hanging down from the ceiling and then you slowly bring yourself around.

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It’s incredible for core strength without actually feeling like you’re straining.

Finally, The Vampire.

George and I were shaking our heads when the instructor first showed us the move. There was no way we were going to get into that position. There was no way he was going to make it through without the contents of the previous evening making its way onto the studio floor.

But once you’ve managed a backflip, anything is possible.

The instructions were simple enough: lie backwards in the hammock with the fabric covering your shoulders and feet. Stretch your arms out so that the backs of the hands are pushing against the hammock. Then move your legs forwards towards you, going into a back flip so that you end up with your head facing the floor and your body is at a right angle. And then bring your knees in before pushing out and bringing your head and upper body up. Bingo. Full on bat stance.

George’s experience of anti-gravity yoga:

Not being blessed with balance nor particularly great upper body strength, I was rather apprehensive about taking on anti-gravity yoga but couldn’t have enjoyed the experience more.

While I’m sure I was by no means graceful, every movement was doable and I found myself in positions I’m unlikely to ever be in again.

My aching body over the following few days was a good indication that it was a decent workout but it wasn’t so hard that it was unachievable.

I would certainly recommend giving it a go and should the opportunity arise again, I would happily have another crack at it.

You leave the class feeling taller, stronger and like you’ve really done something impressive. If only clubs and pubs had these hammocks, you think. What a party piece!

Aside from being very low pressure, lengthening the body (ideal if you’re hunched over a desk five days a week), and toning the core and upper body, the class involves a lot of ‘inversion’. By turning upside down, more blood and nutrients apparently flow around your brain and body – improving circulation.

There is a moment for reflection at the end where the lights are turned off and you get to lie down for a bit while being gently swayed, but it’s not a particularly silent or reflective practise. I’ll definitely be heading back in training for tackling those blasted monkey bars once and for all.

This article originally appeared on Metro.co.uk on Tuesday 3 January 2017, and was written by Miranda Larbi. To read the article on the Metro website, please click here: http://metro.co.uk/2017/01/03/we-tried-anti-gravity-yoga-and-turns-out-we-love-to-hang-6355189/