Fitness Trend: Suspension Yoga
As a stand-up comedian, 40-year-old Laurie Elliott knows a thing or two about nerves. "I'm pretty neurotic," she says. While her go-to stress-busters typically involve running and swimming, she's recently found a new exercise passion: suspension yoga. "If you're hypertense and always panicking about things, it's a great way to force yourself to calm down and put things into proper perspective," she says.
Suspension yoga combines the principles of yoga with inversion therapy, which is the use of gravity while the body is upside down to relieve the pull of gravity on the joints that the body encounters every day while upright. Participants use a multipurpose nylon sling called the OmGym® to assist them in doing yoga poses. Some of these poses, such as child's pose, are pretty similar to the original.
But some, such as downward- and upward-facing dog, have been (literally) flipped upside down. Participants secure themselves into the slings and hang from the ceiling, using gravity to help facilitate the stretch. "It's bizarre," says Elliott, "but you catch on very quickly."
Sara Sahr teaches suspension yoga at Hands on You, a boutique gym in Toronto's east end. She says that while the class might look intimidating, it allows participants to focus on stretching instead of worrying about balance and stability. "You kind of surrender, go right into the sling and have it pull and push you," she says. "You can get deeper into your stretches because you've got something to hang on to."
The benefits? According to Sahr, the deep stretching in suspension yoga can help decompress the back, increasing the space between the vertebrae and the discs of the spine. "I focus the class on a healthy back," she says. "If you keep doing it, it's preventive."
In addition to flexibility, many suspension yoga poses involve strength conditioning. During the flying-locust pose, participants swing back and forth while suspended at the front of their hips, engaging their glutes and lower back. Classes often involve non-yoga exercises, too, such as pushups.
Sahr says that participants don't need prior yoga experience to take their first class. But she does recommend keeping an open mind and a playful attitude. "You feel like you're using your body the way you did when you were a kid," says Sahr. "It's sort of a leap of faith. You can't really go anywhere; the ground is really close. If you let go, well...just don't let go!"
Photography courtesy of OmGym®.