“We’re always pounding into the pavement, whether we’re walking, sitting or running,” Travis Shrader says as he hangs upside-down from the ceiling in a white silk hammock. As he swings comfortably and nimbly in it, he shares his enjoyment in teaching fitness classes that allow students to feel empowered with childlike wonder.
A UT alumnus, Shrader is the owner of Fit to the Core, a yoga studio that specializes in the latest trend in exercise, AntiGravity Yoga. This new style of yoga is a strenuous yet fun blend of gymnastics, calisthenics and Pilates, all performed in a woven silk hammock.
“I was a little intimidated,” Shrader, remembering the first AntiGravity Yoga class he took in New York with his wife. He recalls a lot of silliness and laughter, as his fellow yogis attempted their first inversions, or upside-down suspensions.
“We had such a great time that we couldn’t stop thinking about it, talking about it and wanting to take [the class] again. We just got hooked,” he said.
After Shrader and his wife moved back to Austin, they opened the first and only AntiGravity Yoga studio in Texas to spread the euphoria they felt in their first class.
“I think a big reason why it’s so fun is, especially for your first time, it takes you back to a real childlike state, swinging and flipping. We have people who come in here who are like 50 years old and once they flip, and they come up with a smile, saying, ‘Oh my God, I haven’t done that since I was in high school,’” Shrader said.
Ka Ying Ng, a business sophomore and recent student at Fit to the Core, said the full body workout that AntiGravity provides is very physically challenging.
“I feel like whenever I practice yoga, it’s all about meditation — the flow and the breath. But with AntiGravity Yoga, it was a completely different game. It was challenging, but very relaxing,” Ng said.
Ng’s favorite AntiGravity Yoga pose is called “The Cocoon,” where you lie flat on your back, completely enveloped in silk, swaying in time with the rise and fall of your breath. When he teaches the introductory AntiGravity class, Shrader likes to end the session with this pose.
“Normally, workouts are very tense. Regular yoga classes require a still mind and a still body, but here, in that pose, you’re fully extended and wrapped in the hammock. It’s very comforting and you can get lost in there for a while,” Shrader said.
Classes at Fit to the Core are intimate, each with only five students to one instructor, held in a cozy yet peaceful studio. Because of the small class size, instructors are able to tailor the class regimen to their individual needs and abilities.
The AntiGravity Yoga franchise, which was officially launched in 2007 by dancer Christopher Harrison in New York, claims that after an hour and a half class, through spinal decompression, students can leave nearly a quarter inch taller.
“When we’re inverted, gravity forces our head back down to the floor so it elongates your spine and stretches the cartilage between each vertebra,” Shrader said.
But when it all comes down to it, Shrader hopes to maintain an engaging atmosphere in his classes.
“By adding in this fun twist to yoga, you can get a great work out while feeling like a kid again, so you’re not necessarily focused on negative things, like ‘I can’t lift this weight.’ You’re just having a good time being comfortable in the air,” Shrader said.
Printed on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 as: Yoga studio loses its sense of gravity.