Five thousand years ago, give or take a century, when Ayurveda was born, yoga created a framework of healthy exercise, mental calm and spiritual accessibility that went with the health philosophy. The mind-body phenomenon that now has millions taking to their mats every day around the world has since spawned a number of different practices, from the strict Iyengar, flowing Ashtanga and energising Power to rather more alternative forms.
There’s ‘doga’ where dog owners potty about their pooches encourage real downward dogs. There’s ‘gloga’, when you don your most neon yogawear and follow a class in a dark room with black light. There are people attempting to do asanas on horseback – surely not ‘hoga’? Purists may add rolling their eyes to their regular tadasanas and savasanas, but if out-of-the-box, and sometimes off-the-mat yoga makes the practice more accessible to more people, I say “Namaste!”
A recent discovery for me, which combines a Vedic health focus with yoga is Quantum Yoga, created by British yogini Lara Baumann in 1999.
“Quantum Yoga works with Ayurveda allowing students to be in accordance with their nature,” says Baumann, who encourages students to take a dosha questionnaire before class to discover their current personal prakriti (nature and temperament). “This maps out how the three doshas (pitta, vata, kapha) are balanced in your body and mind and tells me what kind of yoga would be most beneficial for you.”
Along with her hotelier husband, Baumann has recently co-launched Tri resort in Sri Lanka, a beautiful Zen-like boutique hotel near Galle, where she and visiting instructors teach Quantum Yoga.
I instantly feel that adding the dosha philosophy to yoga makes wonderful sense. Quizzing my physical body, my mental state and my personal preferences, unsurprisingly to me and to Lara who can tell at a glance, I’m predominantly pitta with a splash of vata. In a nutshell, this means I have an athletic figure and a fiery, energetic temperament and choose gymnastically challenging classes to feed that fire, rather than slower classes to soothe it. Light bulb moment.
“Naturally we are drawn to things that makes us more extreme,” says Lara, pre-class in the beautiful, breezy sala. “However, Ayurveda is all about recognising it is balance that brings health and harmony. I would recommend grounding, calming classes to you. You may not like it, but you need it.”
We start with a steady and calming focus on each chakra, before a flow of strengthening and grounding poses, more demanding in terms of flexibility and balance than coordination or speed. However, she is well aware that the class needs balance too. “I realise I need to give students something they are attracted to too,” she says. And to my delight we end with a mini routine of headstands, transitioning with strength and balance into crow and back again. Yoga therapy made fun.
AntiGravity / Aerial Yoga
Aerial yoga barely needs an introduction. But if you’re yet to try it, it appeals to the inner gymnast while using gravity, not only to help strengthen and lengthen, but also to help the body relax into inversions and moves like wheel.
Created by Christopher Harrison, join an AntiGravity branded class and you’ll be introduced to a whole new set of asanas with entertaining names like monkey, flying shoulder stand, swoosh and vampire. And that’s just the beginning as there are all sorts of hammock-based classes – Fitness, Pilates, Flow, Zumba, Barre, Power to name just a few.
My first AntiGravity class takes place in Singapore with Sophia Sng, AntiGravity instructor at Upside Motion. “Aerial Yoga is particularly good for the shoulders, tight hip flexors, back muscles and for relieving stress.” Sounds like a recipe for everyone on the planet today.
We start with some simple balances and stretches while I get the feel of the fluidity of the silk. The first inversion we do finally gets me ‘flying’ and I love it. The process that takes me to hanging bat-like upside down is systematic and makes it easy to trust the hammock to keep me safe.
“Fear is what prevents most people from relaxing,” says Cholthicha Srivisal, master developer for AntiGravity Singapore. “But AntiGravity Aerial Yoga is a lot of fun, and when you start having fun you can relax and fully feel the benefit of being upside down.”
Naturally I’m instantly wishing for the next inversion. Setting the correct grip, making an adjustment of the hammock and then using your balance to flip, it’s incredible what position you can find yourself in, a bit like creating a piece of silk and human origami.
As well as fun, upside down poses are great for the spine. “AntiGravity Aerial Yoga stretches the spine without putting any weight on the body. You hang upside down, suspended in the hammock and decompress completely – that’s why they are called zero-compression inversions,” says Srivisal.
While AntiGravity Yoga helps train core and upper body strength as well as balance, there are psychological gains too. “My spirit feels elevated after just one inversion,” says Srivisal. “And it also changes my perspective on the world while I’m upside down. I feel like a child again, it makes me playful in my heart and spirit.”