In The Air - Suspension Yoga in Mississauga
One of the best things about yoga is its versatility.
You can do it in a hot room, a cool room or outdoors. You can enjoy it while sitting, standing or lying down. It can be fast, hard and sweaty or languorous and slow. You can work every part of your body and leave feeling relaxed, exhausted or both. You can do it to music or in complete silence. You can breathe hard or inaudibly and to yourself. You can even use props.
Sometimes you'll leave with sore arms and a pleasant if not maddening ache in your core, back and hips. Other times you leave feeling looser, freer -- gently lengthened and soothed by a soft voice telling you to just stop thinking about everything and be in your body.
You can really do it anywhere in almost any way.
And now, at Port Credit's Yoga Seven, you can do it in the air.
Last week, I decided to try Yoga Seven's newly launched suspension yoga program -- a $25 practice that involves slings, ropes and handles that suspend you anywhere from one to three-ish feet off the ground (enough to emphasize the challenge without dramatically upping the risk of injury).
It was a quiet class, intimate in number (the class has limited space due to sling availability) and soft and gentle in tone. There were no rapid-fire vinyasas, bombastic tracks or vigorous core exercises. That's not to say the class was calm or easy though. It was one of the most challenging practices I've had, but also the most fun and laugh inducing.
In suspension yoga, knowing is half (actually, maybe more than half) the battle -- and it takes time. The instructor, a pleasant and patient teacher named Natalie Pitton-Sweazey, taught everyone how to hang and utilize the slings, straps and handles. She often had to help students -- usually me -- into the proper position. You can't truly enjoy or benefit from a suspended pose unless you know where you should be in the sling and learning proper positioning and technique is a process, albeit a fun one. With a sling around your hips and your legs wound around straps, you can enjoy semi and full inversions (upside down poses) that open your chest and hips. It's also easier to tackle backbends, as the aerial support makes you feel a little more open and less restricted in your movements.
But while some poses certainly feel easier -- such as anything where you have to hold your legs open -- most are not. Even though parts of your body may be a few inches off the floor, you can still expect to do Chaturangas (lowering yourself from a high plank to the floor) and both down and up dogs. You might also have to pull yourself to your feet from a sitting position, working your arms and core in the process. The most difficult positions, however, are the traditional standing ones.
The sling is very much like a swing and if you aren't able to keep it stationary (I was not), it will take you places you don't want to go (such as in a different direction than the rest of the class). You'll have fun and laugh a lot as you flail and ask what you've done wrong, so it's by no means a harrowing or even embarrassing experience. That said, when you are standing in suspended straps, just a few scant inches off the floor, you might find it very difficult to hold a proper warrior pose. When Natalie tells you to go deeper into your warrior and rise again, working your lower body, you might do so while spinning and getting mild motion sickness (take a Gravol before class if you're known to vom on planes, trains, automobiles and boats). You'll be glad no one was taking pictures of your epic warrior fail.
...If anyone did covertly film the class, please destroy all footage of me at once. Thanks.
The best part of the class -- of any yoga class, really, if we're being honest -- is savasana. Natalie taught us how to turn our sling into a large, dark cocoon that we could rest in silently for the last few minutes of class. If you've never taken a savasana as a clumsy airborne butterfly, you should. It's as fun as it is relaxing.
One of the most pleasantly surprising things about suspension yoga is the remarkably low-key and low-stress atmosphere. The poses are challenging and sometimes difficult to explain to newcomers (like me), but with an hour and 15 minutes to work with, the instructor can take the time to help each student transition gracefully and properly into the proper asana. The small class size also helps.
Although suspension yoga is not recommended for pregnant women or anyone suffering from back issues, it is a unique activity that most people can try for $25. If you're interested in wrapping yourself in some recycled parachute material, you can sign up for Yoga Seven's suspension classes, which are held every Monday at 5 pm.
You might get tangled in straps, turned around and mildly sea sick, but you'll have a lot of fun laughing with your friends, fellow yogis and instructors while doing it.