By JESSICA BOOTH
Sep 20 2015
When I was recently asked if I wanted to check out an AntiGravity® fitness class, I said yes without hesitation. While I would never call myself an athletic person, I do enjoy regular exercise, and I especially enjoy when that exercise is something new and different. AntiGravity® fitness classes use silk hammocks hanging from the ceiling, and involve moves that are worthy of a trapeze artist. Think of Pink performing in front of an awards show suspended in the air in fabric. You can't get much more unique than that!
So, one very early weekday morning, I headed into a space called Studio Anya in New York City to check out an AntiGravity® class especially designed for members of the press (meaning we would learn basic and advanced moves to get a feel for what the fitness classes are all about). The class was being taught by Christopher Harrison himself, the man who started AntiGravity® years ago (more on that in a minute). To be honest, I was feeling pretty nervous. I do yoga on a regular basis and I run a few times a week, but other than that, I'm not exactly a fitness expert. The thought of hanging from the ceiling over a shiny hardwood floor with only a silk rope to support me seemed suddenly terrifying.
But somehow, fortunately, I managed to get through the class. Not only did I get through the class, but I also kind of rocked it, if I do say so myself. By the middle of class, I was literally hanging upside-down, a silk scarf the only thing keeping me in the air — and I was doing it with a huge smile on my face. In fact, I loved the experience so much, that I booked another class in Harrison's AntiGravity® Headquarters, located on 37th Street and Eighth Avenue. I genuinely had a good time, and I learned a few things along the way. Intrigued and interested in doing this yourself? You should be! Here's what I learned from my first AntiGravity® class:
1. AntiGravity® Has An Interesting History
Christopher Harrison actually started AntiGravity® as an entertainment company back in 1991. He has thought of and produced more than 400 entertainment productions for everything from Broadway to the movies to the Olympics. The AntiGravity® Theater & National Aerial Performance Training Center is based in Orlando, Florida. Entertainers do shows in Florida, participate in productions, and perform for A-list celebrities.
Eventually, Harrison realized that using the AntiGravity® Hammock had fitness benefits that people who weren't entertainers could benefit from also. AntiGravity® Yoga and Fitness classes were born, and enjoyed by celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and normals like me. So if you're considering trying AntiGravity®, you're in pretty good company!
2. It's Actually Not As Terrifying As It Seems
Like I said, I was really nervous about taking this class. Studio Anya in NYC features a gorgeous room filled with mirrors, windows, sunlight, and plants, but all I could focus on were the colorful silk hammocks hanging from the ceiling. "That's what I'm supposed to trust to hold me up as I work out?" I wondered anxiously to myself as I looked around at the ridiculously fit Christopher Harrison, and at the other editors who seemed, weirdly, totally at ease. And maybe I prayed a little.
Taking a super trendy and exclusive fitness class like this one in Manhattan can be seriously intimidating. It's easy to feel like the instructors are going to be tough and mean while everyone else in the class is judging you as they watch you struggle. I felt that way for a moment, but as soon as class started, it went away. Harrison was definitely tough — he pushed us to work as hard as possible — but he was also so nice and easy to work with, not to mention extremely helpful. So were the assistant instructors, and no one there made me feel judged at all.
I thought my pleasant experience could be chalked up to the fact that this was meant for media reviews. But during my second class at the headquarters on Eighth Avenue, I experienced the same thing. My class instructor was super friendly and sweet, incredibly encouraging, and very helpful. Harrison and the other instructors helped make the entire concept less scary, which I was really grateful for.
3. It's Not As Hard As It Looks
Right before we started working out, Harrison gave us an idea of what we were going to do. This included crunches, squats, push-ups, and jumping jacks. Oh, and handstands, front flips, and hanging upside-down from the ceiling. No big deal.
As Harrison went through the moves, specifically the more advanced ones like hanging upside-down or flipping around in the hammock, I stared at him wide-eyed, certain I would never be able to do it no matter how hard I tried. I was wrong! Once you're in that hammock correctly, you're so much more secure than you'd think. If you do exactly what you're told, you'll find yourself doing front and back flips, handstands galore, and even hanging upside-down. As you're doing it, you think, "Oh... this isn't even that hard!" In fact, I actually found the standing crunches more difficult than the upside-down part. It does hurt though, so expect to be sore the next day.
4. Your Body Can Do More Than You Think
If you told me a few weeks ago that I would find myself suspended in the air in a split position with my legs wrapped in a silk hammock, I would laugh at you until I cried. But I did it! AntiGravity® showed me that our bodies really can do so much more than we think they can. It's not even about losing weight or trying to tone up. It's about pushing our bodies to a limit we didn't know was possible. It's really inspiring, and makes you feel like a total badass.
5. Fitness Should Be Fun
A lot of exercise classes and instructors take themselves really seriously. The thing I loved about AntiGravity® is that it didn't do that. Harrison encouraged us to smile, laugh, and have fun throughout the whole class — if we weren't smiling, we had to do more reps. During the class, he kept reminding us that this should be something fun and relaxing, a way to feel good about ourselves and to let go of daily anxieties and stress.
In my second class, my instructor did the same thing. She joked around with us the whole time, making everyone feel more at ease. The music was so fun in both classes. Most importantly, nobody made you feel bad if you made a mistake. They reminded us that mistakes are par for the course, and never something to beat yourself up over. The classes were a reminder that exercise is about doing something good for your body AND your mind.
6. Shaking Up Your Routine Definitely Isn't A Bad Idea
I am very much into routines, and I rarely change up what I do. But AntiGravity® reminded me that I should sometimes. A lot of AntiGravity® is done in an upside-down position. I doubt you find yourself hanging upside-down very often (if you do, tell me about it please!). Having the blood rush to your head for more than a minute is an interesting sensation that can really change your perspective.
Being upside-down is obviously a big part of AntiGravity®. In that position, you'll feel blood pumping through your body. When you're finished, you'll feel taller, lighter, and super strong. It's pretty awesome.
What were my final thoughts on AntiGravity®? I think it's pretty obvious that I loved it. The one downside was how I felt the next day: I had some bruises on my legs from where the hammock was holding me, and my neck was a little sore. My muscles were obviously sore also, but I didn't mind it. Honestly, though, the bruises were worth it. The class made me feel so awesome about myself! I felt accomplished, because I did something new that seemed scary to me, and that was really great.
Images: AntiGravity Fitness and Jessica Booth