During a recent Thursday afternoon lunch break, Yoga Sleuth discovered a rather unusual stress release performing against gravity at Studio Anya in the heart of Chelsea. A yoga class structured to flow mid-air is not something you learn in a typical vinyasa sequence, but it’s certainly an invigorating practice that any adventurous yogi must try.
Feelings of excitement and fear took over as I entered a spacious, sunlit room dressed with around 15 Harrison hammocks hanging from the ceiling; it looked as if I’d stepped onto a Cirque Du Soleil set. Just as I reminded myself to hold a beginners mind, our fun-spirited teacher walked in and immediately took control of the room.
Our AntiGravity Yoga instructor, Lorianne Major brightened the energy of the room with her big smile and boisterous personality. She walked around to each student adjusting the height of the hammocks to fall hip level, then made her way to the front of the room. Turning to face the class she enthusiastically asked, “Who’s ready to fly?”
To get us acquainted with the aerial hammocks, Lorianne provided very precise cues that led us into poses like hanging child’s pose, supported downward dog and a cocoon-wrapped Sukhasana that was comparable to the comforting sensation of being carried in a mother’s womb.
Letting go of the fear that my weight wouldn’t be supported by a hanging piece of cloth was the biggest challenge, but Lorianne assured us they were designed to carry over 1,000 lbs. Once my trust was built, I realized the hammock was actually a really amazing prop for support - a perfect metaphor for relationships.
With the help of Lorianne’s thorough alignment and breathwork cues, I was able to find balance in flying inversions, arm balances and swinging poses (knees to navel) that turned into intense core work.
Having the mobility to fly around in space was extremely liberating and it introduced my mind to a whole new library of movements in the body. Lorianne explained that this exploration of movement smooths out the wrinkles in the brain that awakens new knowledge.
Lorianne’s former experience with performance art created a fun and entertaining atmosphere, but don’t expect applause after (literally) hanging for 75 minutes - it’s a serious workout! The aerial hammock is used as a tool to strengthen the upper body, find balance in the core and work the leg muscles, all while training the mind to be still without the support of gravity.
Finding a flying Savansana in our hammock was the perfect closing to a quite unsteady sequence of balancing postures. As we turned our attention to the breath, Lorianne’s spunky personality shifted into a calming guided meditation leading us to find a tranquil center, hanging somewhere between freedom and groundedness.
-Ashley Rose Howard for Yoga Sleuth
This 75-minute class is $20 for a drop-in, aerial hammocks included.