SUSPENSION YOGA: TEACHING OLD YOGIS NEW TRICKS
Story by Mara Munro
Images courtesy of Hands On You
On a bright Saturday morning, I found myself floating and flying through the air of a studio, casting long shadows on my yoga mat. Having yet to master the ancient yogic art of levitation, I nonetheless had the chance to experience the thrilling and therapeutic effect of weightlessness, as my body was suspended by a small hammock-like sling called the omgym in a ‘Stretch and Strength’ suspension yoga class at the Hands on You Therapeutic Clinic in Leslieville.
Developed by Sarah Kellett in 2005, the omgym is a suspension apparatus with two main parts: one cushioned sling and a set of handles/stirrups with three different lengths for your hands and/or feet. After sustaining a spinal injury, and then traveling to Thailand, Sarah noticed the locals doing stretches in their hammocks, using the principles of suspension and inversion to create therapeutic traction. After experimenting with this method herself, Sarah found that she had not only healed her own spinal injury, but also deepened her flexibility and increased her strength. Arriving in Canada just one year ago, the omgym is quickly gaining popularity for its versatile applications, which you can use for yoga, gymnastics, dance and fitness.
As a yoga teacher, it was refreshing to be a beginner again. I felt a spark of nervous excitement as I placed the sling just below my hip bones, tiptoed to the top of my yoga mat, and leaped into the air, arms and legs outstretched in flying lotus pose. It soon became clear that the double-edged sword of trust and fear play a huge role in this yoga class, but as I locked my legs around the sling, and let myself drop backwards into a full suspended inversion, I felt elated: my spine stretched out, laughing at gravity, and I suddenly remembered the joy of being a little girl again, hanging upside down on the playground monkey bars.
Rarely do you come across a yoga class that is perfect for advanced, elderly, and injured practitioners alike, but suspension yoga is an exception. “I teach a couple in this class who are both 65,” explains teacher Sarah Sahr, “and it’s perfect for them. This class is ideal for those who find a regular yoga class too challenging, because it this helps you get comfortable in a pose before taking on the challenge of holding it all by yourself.” On the other hand, Sarah notes, “I get two extremes in this class: beginners and those with injuries, as well as advanced yogis who want to get creative and playful in their practice and take on new challenges.”
By the end of class, Sarah had moved us from a deeply supportive, passive class into an exhausting experiment in inner-thigh strength as we slowly lowered ourselves down into the splits, and the came back to standing with both feet in stirrups, holding shoulder-level handles. The omgym is limitless in it’s possibilities for play, and with its versatile application for therapy and fitness, the ‘Stretch and Strengthen’ will definitely teach any old yogi some fun new tricks.
Hands On You is a spacious therapeutic clinic and training facility in Leslieville, offering a variety of classes for developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check out their schedule to attend one of their ‘Stretch and Strengthen’ classes.
Hands On You Therapeutic Clinic, 349 Carlaw Avenue, Suite 102, Toronto.