By Toby Massenburg
Originally published on Advocate.com April 06 2009 12:00 AM ET
Here's How to Give Your Yoga Practice a Real Lift
The moment I saw hammocks suspended from the ceiling at West Hollywood's Crunch gym, I knew this was no traditional yoga class. The only yoga I knew has you holding different positions while grounded on terra firma, not hanging upside down. Says Christopher Harrison, a gay man who used his background as an aerobics instructor to create AntiGravity Yoga: "The AntiGravity Hammock requires that the participant distribute his weight between the floor and the hammock, changing the physical dynamic completely."
Acting as a soft trapeze, the hammock supported my body as I mastered simple suspension techniques. The most thrilling part of the workout, however, was when we took wing completely, saying goodbye to gravity. While "in flight," the instructor hinted, our cores would begin to warm. This turned out to be a gross understatement, as my abs were on fire! Regardless of the workout inferno in my midsection, I couldn't help smiling as I swayed effortlessly through space. The most challenging aspect of the workout came when I went head over heels -- literally -- and transitioned into inverted poses. Movements like "skydivers," inverted crunches, and "pull-ups" brought my body to near exhaustion, while realigning my spine. After the class concluded, I felt totally exhausted but completely exhilarated. "The best part of AntiGravity Yoga is that it puts to use -- in a creative way -- all those muscles you work so hard to build," Harrison says. I couldn't agree more. AntiGravityYoga.com
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Q&AQ: I can't seem to develop a bubble butt. What exercises do you recommend?
A: Several readers have written in about this. There's no better way to tone the glutes than with cardiovascular training. Uphill hiking and stair-climbing will kick your butt muscles into action. When hitting the weights, focus on the quads, hips, hamstrings, and lower back. These muscles work as a team to strengthen and shape the glutes. Exercises like squats, dead lifts, step-ups, and lunges target these areas. Then you can move to an isolation exercise like the stability reverse bridge. Start by lying face up with your heels on top of a stability ball. Place your arms in a T position to assist with balance. Drag your heels against the ball until your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Once in position, press your hips toward the ceiling, pausing for five seconds. Slowly return to the start position, with your hips returning to the floor. Repeat for 12 to 15 reps. With these few additions to your workout, you'll have a derriere you can bounce a quarter off of.
A Shoe's Lifespan -- Shorter Than You Might ThinkBeing fit does little good if you end up crippled with weak hips and shot knees. So before you hit the treadmill or road, check your sneakers' midsoles -- the soft interior designed to absorb the shock. The integrity of the midsole can be evaluated by placing your forefinger on the underside of the shoe and your thumb inside the shoe and pinching. If it's firm, your shoes need to be replaced; if it compresses, they're still road- and track-worthy. As a rule of thumb, running shoes should be replaced every six months or 500 miles. I recommend Adidas's adiFusion Motion Control ($100, ShopAdidas.com ) for indoor speedsters and the GoLite Sun Dragon ($95, GoLite.com/footwear ) for hikers.