Our intrepid health director, Amy Brightfield, turns her fitness routine upside down in aerial yoga.
Being prone to motion sickness, my first inclination was to walk right by all the aerial yoga studios popping up around town. You know, the ones with rows of silky fabric hammocks hanging from the ceiling and poised students gracefully suspended in their poses, despite the fact that they're basically on a swing. The thought of doing yoga while clinging -- er, I mean holding on -- to a piece of cloth had me reaching for a barf bag. But my fitness curiosity got the better of me. So I did a little deep breathing, tried to tune out my mom's advice ("Wear a helmet"), and signed up for a very beginner's class at Om Factory in New York City.
After I introduced myself to instructor Janie Prince ("Hi, my name is Amy, and I throw up on airplanes"), she reassured me that the fabric was securely attached to the ceiling with heavy-duty metalwork and I wouldn't crack my head open. Janie warmed us up and demonstrated how to position the sling around the torso, legs, and arms so it was secure and supportive. "I like to show people you can trust the fabric," Janie said. Gradually, I put more and more of my weight into the hammock. "Because the fabric supports your body weight, aerial yoga can make some poses easier," said Kevin Bigger, director of Om Factory's teacher training program. "It also gives you a great ab workout since you're continually using your core to balance on the fabric." I found both to be true, especially when I did plank pose with my feet in the fabric, hands on the mat.
At one point, I was suspended in a lotus-esque position, not the least bit worried about crashing down. Then came the ultimate test of trust: an inversion. Janie helped me sit back into the fabric, position it around my upper thighs (not a flattering spot to have a thick band of fabric wrapped around you), and I leaned back until … I was upside down! I felt a whoosh of pressure as blood rushed to my head. I hung there for a minute, and felt ... fine, then actually kind of good. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and noticed I had a nice flush and looked just the slightest bit smoothed out. Inversions instead of Botox! It seemed daunting to lift myself out of this position, but I mustered my upper body strength and was upright in seconds.
After class, the effects were noticeable immediately: My back felt stretched out, and my usual problem spots (shoulder and neck) were quiet. The best takeaway: body confidence! No one had to untangle me. I hung upside down -- a few times -- and didn't turn green. I could get used to this, and who knows, it might even be safe to sit next to me on my next flight.