A new form of yoga has reached the shores of the UAE: swing yoga, a combination of TRX suspension training, aerial swings and classic yoga postures.
This variation involves a supportive swing that allows the body to perform challenging postures and get deeper into poses. A silk hammock hangs from the ceiling, with adjustable straps for the arms and legs on both sides, similar to the TRX body weight straps.
Swing yoga was introduced at Fitness First's Beach Park Plaza studio in Dubai last month. It is also now offered in Fitness First's other studio in Motor City.
"It's been really popular," says Pilar Sanchez, Fitness First's regional head of yoga. "It's something new and different. Some of the moves are like gymnastics. You don't get to do these things in a normal yoga class."
Swing yoga was inspired by another form called iyengar, which also uses straps and was devised by the Indian yoga master BKS Iyengar. Sanchez says the practise is a good complement to other forms of sport and exercise, allowing its practitioners to focus on body alignment and balance during the one-hour class. Swing yoga's postures target the spine and hips, too, and because it involves a variety of movements, no two classes are the same.
Set to soothing instrumental music - fighting against the pumping dance tracks booming through the wall from the studio next door - the class was a good balance of relaxation and physical challenge, unlike other exercises which either lack physicality or focus more on the spiritual and meditational aspects of yoga.
The class starts with simple movements such as the forward-bending downwards dog, where the hammock rests below the hips while the body goes on an upside-down V position. This move warms up the body and prepares it for deeper stretches, back bends and inverted positions.
Suitable for all levels, movement is adjusted according to the skill of the practitioners, instructors seeing how far one can go before suggesting further postures.
For the more advanced individuals, swing yoga is a good way to try out more challenging postures such as the headstand, or deep back bends such as the camel pose.
In the latter, you bend backwards, kneeling down with the knees hip width apart, toes tucked under and rolling the body backwards to touch the feet behind you. The swing acts as a support for the upper back, which can feel strained as the hips lift and push forward to release weight and tension in the neck and shoulders.
"You can do these things without fear," says Sanchez. "That's why swing yoga is really good for back bending and inversions. You can work on your alignment without falling over as you have extra support."
In a shoulder stand position, known for its detoxifying benefits, the swing enables the more advanced yogis to push their practise to a higher level by engaging more muscles in the legs, which are wrapped around the swing's two sides. The legs are able to push up higher and harder, bearing the weight of the body and easing the pressure from the neck and shoulders.
"There is much less risk of injury with this type of yoga," says Sanchez. "It's very safe and people feel safe using it."
To finish, the class ends in a soothing relaxation pose, cocooned in the hammock, gently rocking to the sound of soft music, soles of the feet touching, arms overhead. The perfect end to a challenging and enjoyable hour.
For more information, call 800-FITNESS (348-6377) or visit Fitness First Middle East's Facebook page.