Flying Yoga Lands in Prague

Are you ready to fall head over heels for the lateness fitness craze?

Lisette Allen

Written by Lisette Allen Published on 05.11.2013 16:23:31 (updated on 05.11.2013) Reading time: 4 minutes

I am something of a yoga purist. I’m skeptical about Bikram, aka hot yoga: if I wanted to get that sweaty, I’d run a marathon or, more realistically given my stamina level, sit in a sauna. Other hybrids, like yogalates, make me still more suspicious. However, when I heard about flying yoga – also known as anti-gravity yoga, aerial yoga, and yoga-in-the-air – I have to admit I was curious. Was this new exercise craze just a gimmick or did it have unique benefits? Would I, the child who was forbidden to have ballet lessons because according to her parents she had the agility of a fairy elephant, finally glide through the air with grace?

According to Christopher Harrison, the acrobat and gymnast who invented anti-gravity yoga, even a complete clutz like me is capable of surviving a class. “My mom can do it, everyone can do it,” he told the Daily Mail. “That was the most important thing to me, that it is inclusive.”

To my surprise, there are already a number of venues in Prague which offer flying yoga – or aero yoga as its been dubbed by the Czechs. A quick Google search throws up Dům jógy at Andel, Letňany’s Sport Centrum Praha, and Poletime, a poledancing studio which also offers tuition in this particular form of yoga. Go figure. I decided to get out of my own neighbourhood, as well as my comfort zone and head to Chodov for my first anti-gravity experience.

Source: sport-centrum-chodov.cz/
Source: sport-centrum-chodov.cz/

On entering the specially adapted studio, I realised that this really ought to be called ‘yoga in a hammock with handles attached to it.’ Not exactly catchy, I admit, but accurate.

Our instructor is positioned in the centre of the room sitting in her funky purple hammock while we students have to be content with plain white ones. A few students have managed to lie down in this wobbly contraption but I even found this simple goal tricky to accomplish.

Perhaps my parents were right after all.

With a bit of assistance from the teacher, I do eventually manage to stretch out flat and swing gently from side to side. So far, so pleasant – but as I lie there, I know the going is going to get tougher.

The aim of flying yoga – besides making you look silly – is to help you perform the more challenging inversion postures (such as the headstand) without struggling for months or years to develop the necessary core body strength to lift your legs and torso above your head. Reputed to have numerous health benefits such as improved circulation and immune system functioning, inversions are a fundamental part of any yoga practice. After more than a decade of dabbling, would I finally manage these seemingly impossible asanas?

Source: sport-centrum-chodov.cz/
Source: sport-centrum-chodov.cz/

Many of the postures in aero yoga were variations of classic poses. There was a fantastic version of downward facing dog in which I lay in the hammock, arms outstretched in the handles, legs wide apart, that made me feel I really was flying like a yogi superhero. Other positions did require me to flip upside down acrobatically, having wrapped the hammock around my waist for support, then weave my legs around the two wires hanging from the ceiling. If you’re having trouble picturing this, imagine how tricky it was to actually do. My first attempt didn’t go so well and I found myself sliding out of the contraption onto the mat below.

Oops.

Source: sport-centrum-chodov.cz/
Source: sport-centrum-chodov.cz/

After a little one-to-one instruction, I remain swinging upside down with the skill of a trapeze artist – or at least, an aspiring one. I also managed a super deep back bend, the like of which I’ve never succeed in doing without the help of apparatus. These assisted inversions are great fun and despite the odd mishap, not as difficult as I’d feared. However, the fabric support can dig in painfully as you’re placing all your weight on it: our instructor claimed that this discomfort fades over time.

At the end of the class, I sit in the lotus position in the hammock, gently swaying from side to side. I’m supposed to be visualising my chakras but I’m distracted by the fact I feel somewhat seasick. Gwyneth Paltrow never mentioned anything about that particular side effect while blogging about the benefits of this fitness craze.

Flying yoga was a surprisingly liberating experience. It made me reflect on how easy to approach the conventional asanas in a po-faced fashion, forgetting to be playful or just have fun. That said, as a woman who likes to keep her feet on the ground, I think I’ll stick to non-gravity defying forms of exercise for the foreseeable future.

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Good for you or gimmick? You decide.

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