As you may recall from my last post, for 2016, I resolved to say yes more often. Yes to invitations from others, and yes, apparently, to myself (and if you missed it, you can find it here). Last night I invited myself to a class offered by my gym called “Anti Gravity flying fitness”. For good measure, as well as some accountability, I invited my partner in stupid workouts, my hot yoga loving, Zumba dancing, dear friend Wry. Wry and I share many things; a history with roller derby, a reconstructed ankle post roller derby, a love of strong drinks and dirty jokes, an outgoing nature, and a higher than average BMI.
Neither of us had tried it before. If you haven’t heard of this anti-gravity workout thing, it’s where participants suspend themselves from hammock like swaths of fabric suspended from the ceiling. Google it and you’ll see lots of thin athletic white people upside down, looking serene. You’ll read about moderately skeptic journalists trying it at some posh New York studio, and being pleasantly surprised about how fun and accessible it is. Try googling “fat people doing anti-gravity fitness” and you’ll read about how each hammock thing can hold more than 1000lbs, but you won’t see any inspirational plus sized folks doing a shoulder stand in the anti gravity hammock thing, or at least, I couldn’t find any. Wry suggested that we bring our derby helmets in case we fell. With my experience being a huge boobed yogi-in-training, I suggested a snorkel for when my airway was eventually obstructed by my tits.
We arrived early for the class and introduced ourselves to the instructor. We were okay with being the largest participants there, but with it being January and all, we expected a full gym of similarly inexperienced people, all trying to achieve their resolutions. No such luck. We weren’t prepared to be the only newbs. Maybe if there had been more than 7 of us in the room, we wouldn’t have felt quite so out of place. Oh well.
We were assured of assistance, and helped with the set up of our hammock to the appropriate height. Socks off, pants hitched up, we started with some leaning and stretching with the fabric supporting most of our weight. Warrior 3 was way easier with outstretched arms holding onto the grey blue silk. Downward dog with the fabric supporting our hips was a little uncomfortable, my pelvis was unfamiliar with the feeling of supporting all of my weight. “Now lift your feet and fly”, the instructor suggested. Nope. Not gonna happen. Not yet. I less than daintily pulled myself back and up into a standing position. Wry was about as trusting of the set up as I was and we exchanged some pointed eyebrow raises. Next up were some back bends over the hammock. Less frightening. We were in! We spent another 15 minutes moving around the hammock, sitting and swinging, twisting and bending. Not so bad.
Then came time for our first inversion. We were given specific instruction about how to maneuver the fabric and our bodies in order to get safely ass over tea kettle. It wasn’t pretty (and I would know because there are mirrors everywhere) but it was a success, at least for me. When I looked over at Wry, she wasn’t upside down with me. She said that she wasn’t sure that she had the grip strength to grab the fabric and pull herself topside, as we were instructed to do to get right side up again. I get it. I was clutching at the fabric as I swung around, thinking that I could save myself from impending death if the whole contraption tore and I tumbled towards the ground.
The class progressed, swinging, hanging, and inverting. Wash, rinse, repeat. I needed help getting into one of the inversions as it required a leg wrap that I couldn’t figure out on the first try, and out of another one, when my desperate grabbing for the fabric to pull myself up only left me with my hands on my thighs and my feet flailing wildly. I had inadvertently stranded myself upside down and when the instructor came over, I got scolded like a child (I told you not to….what were you going to do next?” Um, call for help?). Each time I flipped my ass into the air and brought my head towards the ground, Wry would whisper “you’re my hero” at me, boosting my confidence while she continued to opt out of the inversions.
There as a moment when we were on our stomachs, swaying back and forth, that Wry commented that we very much resembled whales being hoisted out of the sea. Flattering, supportive, and body positive? Nope! But when faced with challenges and you don’t feel like you’re succeeding, I think that it’s totally normal to have self doubt. I laughed along and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Save for my curly hair and lack of a dorsal fin, it wasn’t much of a stretch.
There were some really neat moments in the class. Being completely cocooned in blue grey silk, both seated and stretched out was incredible. Supported back bends? Love ’em. Figuring out how to maneuver my sizable ass and thighs around to get into position without laughing, grunting, and swinging violently, well, that may take more practice.
It ended with shavasana, suspended more than a foot off the ground, swaying gently.
Back in change room, we dissected the class. Familiarity with the rigging might have helped at the start. Comfort with the pressure the fabric put on our hips and thighs, that would come with practice. Would we do it again? I was in, but Wry wasn’t so sure. It didn’t feel like a workout, yet both of us were trembling. Was it from fear or the endorphin rush that comes with surviving something terrifying, or had we really worked harder that we thought? Who knows.
For our workout buck, it wasn’t really worth it. But for an experience, it as well worth the price of admission (free with membership). They call it anti-gravity yoga, but I have never been more aware of the power of the earth’s gravitational pull than when I put all of my faith, and my weight, into some silk, canvas straps, and carabiners, trusting them to not let me come crashing down.
Later, when Wry retold her joke about having felt like a large acquatic animal being hoisted from the sea, the whale was replaced by a shark.