AntiGravity Yoga, the latest fusion-fitness craze
SALT LAKE CITY -- Imagine yourself flipping and swinging in midair — with only a silk hammock to suspend you.
Sounds a little intimidating, but as one of the latest trends in fitness, AntiGravity Yoga has become an overnight sensation at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. As the only college in the nation to launch this fusion-fitness technique, Westminster coordinators hope the program continues to create buzz throughout the campus — and beyond.
Pulling from aerial arts, Pilates, calisthenics and yoga, AGY is a fitness regimen created by Christopher Harrison where participants utilize fabric hammocks suspended from the ceiling to perform various inversion movements to help relieve compressed joints
Tamer Begum, Harrison’s nephew and a Westminster senior, introduced the new fitness trend to the college under his uncle’s tutelage.
“I discovered yoga at the age of 18 but was turned on to Antigravity Yoga by my uncle when he came into town for a teacher training at a local gym,” Begum said. “I attended the training and became certified and completed my teaching and assisting hours in New York City, where AntiGravity headquarters is located. I then proposed the business plan of making Westminster the first higher educational facility in the world with this new fitness craze.”
Within the first month of establishing the program at the college, Begum had more than 100 students participate in his class. He estimates there have been more than 300 yogis — practitioners of yoga — attend the class since he started it last fall, including 21 members of Westminster’s snowboard team.
“Tamer spent a summer with me in New York City, and by the end of his extensive training, he wound up with a following for his class at the Om Factory in midtown Manhattan,” said Harrison. “He changed up the energy with his class and brought his own vibe to the technique, proving that he could handle his own class. It was his commitment to the practice and to handling the business aspect that convinced me to bring AntiGravity Yoga to the first higher education facility. Westminster is the ideal place to introduce AGY to the youth market because of the strong winter sports programs.”
Westminster snowboard team member Zachary Lancaster complained of chronic back pain for years and decided to try out the AGY class to see if it would help alleviate some of his issues.
“Before starting AGY, I had pretty regular lower back pain since I was a freshman in high school,” he said. “The pain definitely came from snowboarding all the time along with other sports I was participating in. AGY has worked wonders on my back pain, which really helps when I take a bad fall or have a sore neck or back.
“The best thing about AGY is how good it makes your body feel and how much it helps heal injuries,” he continued. “I would definitely recommend it to other students — and especially snowboarders. I also think this class is extremely beneficial for staff and faculty as well … we’re very lucky because we have it on campus, and it’s gonna get huge.”
But some experts warn that while AGY may be relaxing, it is not for everyone.
According to Ariane Hundt, a New York City-based personal trainer and expert on MSN Health, “Being suspended in the air offers greater flexibility and makes you feel like you’re flying. Hanging upside down is enormously relaxing, releases tension in the body and makes you feel weightless. However, holding poses while suspended from the ceiling requires coordination and isn’t appropriate for fitness novices or those who are obese.”
Nonetheless, Begum believes that nearly everyone can participate in his class.
“I’ve had 60-year-old faculty members participate in the class, as well as 18-year-old students,” said Begum. “However, I would not recommend this class to anyone who could have a condition that could be contraindicated for doing inversions, such as people with pre-existing heart conditions, those with severely high blood pressure, glaucoma or recent spinal surgery.”
Begum, who will be graduating from Westminster at the end of the spring semester, also has an academic connection to AGY. As part of his senior project, he has been studying the benefits of AGY on people with chronic neck and back pain.
“My first study is a comparative study consisting of 14 people, all with some degree of chronic back pain,” he said. “My goal is to prove that AGY, compared to a regular yoga class, can improve back and neck pain in less time and lead to better overall athletic performance.”
Begum plans to complete his research by the end of April and hopes it will be useful to other athletes.
“As an avid skier who has had his share of injuries, I’m also personally keenly aware of all the compression that takes place on the hills," Harrison said. “Decompressing in the AGY hammock after a day on the slopes is the most healing thing you can do. The research that Tamer is doing with the support of the school will be invaluable to many athletes to come.”
With Begum’s graduation date on the horizon, he and Harrison hope Westminster’s program will stay in the family and grow in popularity so it can be taken to other campuses.
“My nephew Bryan Brody, a freshman at Westminster, is also a certified Level 1 instructor, so once Tamer graduates, the program can continue under his competent direction.” Harrison said. “Both of them just returned from Los Angeles where they staffed the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association fitness convention representing AGY to the fitness industry. We are looking forward to sharing this technique with the youth market and know that the proof of the program that we’ve done at Westminster will be invaluable research.”
“Eventually, the goal is to spread AGY to campuses across the world because I’ve found that students are among an ideal demographic to use and benefit from this technique,” Begum said. “Students at Westminster have found that by practicing AGY, they are able to reach their functional fitness potentials, cope with their stressful class workloads much easier, and they can do so in a fun and lighthearted way.”