HEALTH: Anti-Gravity Pilates Works on All Levels

LOOK, NO HANDS!

Want to jump-start your exercise routine and put a smile on your face during a workout? Consider Anti-Gravity Pilates class, recently introduced and offered exclusively at YogaWorks locations in New York City. As I watched myself in the mirror dangling upside down from a lime green silk hammock recently, fear gradually slipped away replaced by a sense of empowerment. For the record, I’m not easily excited or impressed by over-competitive hot yoga classes or marathon training, so this was a bit of a stretch (no pun intended).

What makes Anti-Gravity Pilates and its precursor, Anti-Gravity Yoga, so unique is full-body, zero-compression inversion which aligns the spine and allows for effortless decompression, according to Anti-Gravity Inc., creator Christopher Harrison. “You’re only as young as your spine is flexible and your mind is open,” said Harrison, a respected choreographer and director. “People come into this class and are amazed at all the exercises … there’s more flow to it and you can do it.”

No kidding … you start to feel like Superman flying through the air and you may be tempted to chuckle at some point. But, there’s no trickery or gimmicks going on in classes guided by co-developer Jill Drappo-Harvey. I paid closer attention to my breathing, core muscles, range of motion and stability throughout the body at YogaWorks’ Upper West Side studio. While suspended mid-air, all our movement and strengthening exercises remained true to the Pilates Method, invented by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. Best part, by far in my opinion, was ending the session with the Cocoon Pose, rocking back and forth in stillness.

PILATES INVENTOR AHEAD OF HIS TIME

Harrison, a former world-class competitive gymnast and skier, believes Joseph Pilates was decades ahead of his time, focusing on breathing techniques, keeping the body balanced and strengthening core muscles that give spine support and alignment. Pilates also created an innovative equipment system based on resistance training using springs. The most widely used piece is still the Reformer, along with the Cadillac and Chair. To date, the method remains a preferred fitness regimen among professional dancers.

“The thing that’s beautiful about Pilates is because the smaller muscles are going to give you balance … Joseph Pilates understood this,” Harrison said. At different stages of their lives, both men were divers and aerialists eventually drawn to yoga for healing. “I thought it was the worst news of my life when I blew out my knee as a dancer, but I never would have created Anti-Gravity Yoga,” explains Harrison. Suspended yoga classes are now offered around the world. “I created this technique to be for the everyman, not just for athletes. Everybody needs to rejuvenate their systems.”

Hands down, I must agree.

Recommended:

Anti-Gravity Yoga: http://www.antigravityyoga.com

YogaWorks: http://www.yogaworks.com/

YogaWorks (Upper West Side NY site): http://www.yogaworks.com/Locations/NewYork/Westside.aspx

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