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Up in the Air

Aerial yoga means hanging in there

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Groupon got me at a weak moment. When I opened my daily email equivalent of a Christmas surprise and saw the special for Ophidia Studios' aerial yoga classes--complete with a photo of a woman with Gumby-like moves suspended from the ceiling--I instantly saw myself in a new career as a Cirque du Soleil ribbon acrobat.

I didn't know what to expect the first time I went to a class. I'd been to Ophidia several times before, but always for the pole-dancing classes, which remain the best upper-body workout I've ever tackled. Knowing the studio, I had high expectations for my aerial adventure, and I was far from disappointed.

I watched as the lights in the studio dimmed and a diverse group of aerial yogis--spanning ages, gender and athletic ability--fell into yards of fabric suspended from the ceiling. As they stretched out, I felt the room transformed into a sci-fi like landscape of people in different-colored pods hanging in the air, and half expected some sort of alien to beam down from the disco ball in the middle of the ceiling.

After fighting with my fabric and ignoring the urge to rip it down in a fit of frustration, I enlisted the help of instructor Angela Bryson and figured out how to climb in my pod and make it move with me.

Once I got the hang of it, I was hooked. When I returned for my second session, I was sure that I'd have the moves down, and there wouldn't be any further conflict with my wad of fabric. I was only sort of right.

There was less bunching and I learned where to place the folds, but I wasn't the most agile in my fabric pod. I felt the tension in my upper body release when Bryson grabbed my arms and stretched me into a back-bend while I was hanging upside down.

The inversion portion (in which you wrap your feet around the top of the fabric and hang upside down) gave me the Cirque feeling I was hoping for--although I won't be auditioning anytime soon. And the savasana that I always look forward to at the end of yoga was made even better by the fabric cocoon--sort of like taking a stretched-out nap in a personal hammock, which I could have stayed in indefinitely. I got the athletic-yet-relaxed feeling that I expect from any form of yoga, and left anticipating my next session.