I tried anti-gravity yoga to fulfill my Cirque du Soleil dreams—here’s what happened


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Photo: Stocksy/Sergey Filimonov

Am I the only one who has harbored a deep yearning to hang elegantly upside-down from a pastel-hued hammock since seeing commercials for Cirque du Soleil? I don’t think so. And luckily, if you call New York, Miami, Los Angeles, or San Fran home, you can fulfill your desire to backbend in mid-air at your local Crunch Gym’s “AntiGravity” yoga class.

Last week, I donned my bendiest threads to catch a happy hour-timed class at New York’s Crunch on 59th street to see if a literal new perspective on my asana practice would fulfill my aerial acrobatic itch, and let me tell you—it was ethereal. Not only did I leave the class feeling like Wendy in Peter Pan after experiencing pixie dust for the first time (“I can fly! I can fly!”), the practice also came with another benefit. Despite the fact that I roll out my mat four to five times a week to move through sun-salutations, handstands, and chair poses, I got to experience every pose anew (in mid-air).

aerial yoga nyc
Photo: Stocksy/Rolfo

This is what my anti-gravity yoga experience was like

When I first enter the room, the instructor adjusts my hammock (kinda like a spin bike) so that the bottom of the loop hangs just at my hips. Already, my inner child dares me to hop on the fixture and start swinging, but I quickly remind myself that I’m an adult (*sigh*), and should probably behave myself.

To warm up, all of us shimmy our seats into the the silky, white sheet and grip either side to move through semi-suspended cat cows. My feet are still on the ground at this point, but I already feel myself gently swaying. Next, we stretch out each and every limb by nestling them into the sheet. For instance, to do a pigeon pose, the teacher tells us to prop our entire calf into the hammock parallel to the floor, and lean forward to feel the sensation in the hip.

Then the fun part truly begins: The guide tells us to start swinging. With both hips still perched in my seat, I kick off in one foot and go flying through the air, pumping my legs like I’m back on the playground. Everyone in the room has huge grins on their faces. (Seriously, you’d have to be the grumpiest person ever to not find this fun.) By this time, I’m wondering why the heck I don’t have one of these hanging over my bed.

When I flip myself upright again, I’m hyper-aware of the fresh blood rushing to my head, and I kind of feel like I downed a cup of coffee—but, you know, in a zen way.

After propelling myself through the air for a several minutes, the instructor tells us it’s time to go upside down, and through a very intricate process of wrapping my appendages over and under the hammock, I find myself hanging with my head about two inches from the ground. Some yoga practitioners believe in working your way up to being able to stay in inversions for 10-20 minutes to experience the utmost benefits, and apparently, this instructor is of that camp. We stay in this pose for about 10 minutes, and the teacher even prompts us to press through our hands so that we’re executing an assisted handstand (NBD). When I flip myself upright again, I’m hyper-aware of the fresh blood rushing to my head, and I kind of feel like I downed a cup of coffee—but, you know, in a zen way.

At last, the instructor tells us to cuddle into our hammocks for savasana. Being enmeshed in the fabric feels like I just crawled into a warm cocoon far away from all from worries. (Bye, inbox. So long, laundry.)  Unlike taking corpse pose on a mat where you’re very much aware of the floor beneath you, the whole setup is like falling into a nest made of marshmallows, cotton balls, or the comfiest leggings material. In short, it’s heaven—and I’m almost annoyed when the teacher pulls me out of my blissful reverie. As I leave the room, I realize that living out my acrobatic experience was just too enjoyable for a one-and-done sweat experience. To really take my yoga practice to new heights (ha!), I’ll have to pencil in this asana-style on the reg.

Here’s the DL on the 8 most popular types of yoga, and the exercise that combines Pilates and asanas

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