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Fitness fad turns upside down

Calcutta gravitates towards aerial yoga

Practitioners of aerial yoga during a session at a training centre on Bishop Lefroy Road on World Yoga Day.

Elgin Road: Aerial yoga that involves performing seemingly impossible exercises hanging upside down from a hammock is catching up in the city among those looking for a higher adrenaline rush than an exercise mat can provide.

The idea of literally being in a state of suspended animation while practising India's most ancient form of exercise is a hit with many fit celebrities like Alia Bhatt, Malaika Arora and Sushmita Sen.

Trainers say the first step in this form of yoga is gathering the courage to bring gravity into the equation. Once someone gets the hang of it, the risk reward for every routine accomplished is immense.

A session typically lasts 50 minutes, and learning is apparently easier than it looks. Novices who had only recently started practising aerial yoga at Bottoms Up, a training centre on Bishop Lefroy Road, on Thursday showed Metro a demonstration of amazing contortions.

Most of them were able to draw themselves up into a cocoon-like position, smoothly wriggle out from that position and strike a pose called "straddle" before clutching the edges of the hammock to turn upside down.

"The upside-down posture uses gravity to release hormones like oxytocin and serotonin, both of which trigger happiness. That is why people seem to enjoy the sessions so much," said Bappa Dhali, a trainer at Bottoms Up, on World Yoga Day.

According to him, the "freeing of the spinal cord" during the routine releases pressure from nerve ends and has a relaxing effect.

The hammocks used in aerial yoga are made of silicon fabric and can bear weights up to 970kg. But getting beginners to trust the strength of the hammock takes some doing.

The next challenge is to convince them to have faith in the trainer's expertise. Most people initially hesitate to follow a trainer's instructions, especially when it involves letting go of one's hand grip after flipping over.

Ruchi Basu of Ballygunge, who is a half-marathoner, loves aerial yoga because a new challenge awaits at the end of each manoeuvre. "It gives me a high to complete difficult postures like vampire and the shoulder stand," she said.

Entrepreneur and fitness enthusiast Karuna Ezara Parikh started aerial yoga barely a month ago and already feels more flexible than she ever was.

Actress and Kolkata Knight Riders co-owner Juhi Chawla had last year posted a picture of her doing aerial yoga on her Instagram page with the message: "It's a good thing to turn your mind upside down & like an hour glass, let the particles run away!"

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