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AntiGravity Aerial Yoga on Aruba

Text by Debbie Kunder  /  Images by Steve Keith

American Christopher Harrison—a former gymnast, dancer, and Broadway choreographer, as well as the cofounder of Cirque du Soleil—is the founder of AntiGravity Aerial Yoga.  His Aerial Yoga is a unique combination of yoga, dance, Pilates, and calisthenics, practiced with the aid of a special hammock suspended from the ceiling.  Christopher teaches Aerial Yoga at the AntiGravity Lab in NYC, which is where local yoga instructor Maria Pucci became certified before bringing it to Aruba.

aerial yoga Aruba

The Class

I had the pleasure of receiving a class from Maria at FLY Fit Studio, located at Paseo Herencia in Palm Beach.  I’ve done plenty of yoga in my life—even dabbled a bit in teaching at one point—so I figured Aerial Yoga would be a piece of cake.  Plus, I had somehow envisioned that the practice would entail little more than stretching languorously in the suspended hammock.  Boy, was I wrong!

One of the first exercises Maria demonstrated involved simply sitting in the hammock with all the fabric bunched together just below the bum.  For me?  A little painful.  I figured something had to be wrong.  Maybe the hammock was at the wrong height?  “Nope, it’s perfect,” assured Maria.  “Actually, the pain is quite normal.”  She pointed out that since the hammock is not at all stretchy and has no give, when you put your weight on it, you’re getting a therapeutic deep-tissue massage.  “It’s a great way to release toxins from your body tissues,” she added.  Trusting in this unexpected benefit, I pushed through the discomfort.

We moved on from there to some core-strengthening exercises, which were reflective of the Pilates influence.  There was also a fair amount of reaching up and pulling on the hammock to lift ourselves, providing a nice upper-body workout.

aerial yoga Aruba

Then it was time to turn upside down.  With faith in Maria (and much less elegantly than Maria), I made my way into Spiderman Pose—legs wrapped around the hammock, bottoms of the feet pressed together, head and arms dangling towards the floor.  Ahhhhh.  “You’re now experiencing one of the greatest benefits of Aerial Yoga—the decompression of the spine,” informed Maria.  It all made sense—inverting yourself and allowing gravity to naturally align the body.  It felt good…real good.

aerial yoga Aruba

All yoga practitioners know Downward Dog.  In Aerial Yoga, it’s Flying Dog (of course). Think Downward Dog but with the hammock lifting your pelvis up and back, like when a yoga instructor corrects your Downward Dog by standing behind you and manually pulling your pelvis up and back.  Maria also demoed Superman Pose by stretching out completely inside the hammock with arms extended forward.  Getting into this pose requires trust in the instructor and trust in the hammock, providing a valuable lesson in learning to let go.

The class ended with about five minutes of Savasana wrapped in the hammock, otherwise known as “cocooning.”  Now this was a pose I could certainly get behind.  Eyes closed, arms crossed over my chest, rocking ever so gently back and forth, back and forth.  Absolute bliss.

aerial yoga Aruba with Maria Pucci

The Benefits

Aerial Yoga provides a total-body workout, relieves stress, improves strength and flexibility, helps with back problems, improves balance, stimulates the release of “happy” hormones, improves the circulatory and lymphatic systems, helps to open up the joints, and teaches body awareness.  And let’s not forget that it’s simply a lot of fun to fly and dance in the air!

For class schedule, visit Cacao Yoga on Facebook.