As a student at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Victoria Davila, uses yoga to relieve the stress of school, but lately she's been turning that workout upside down. Davila is getting into the swing of an increasingly popular form of the discipline -- anti-gravity yoga. During a class at Crunch Fitness in San Francisco, students suspend both their fears and their bodies to achieve a higher degree of motion.
"The gravity, the whole upside down element gives you a lot more flexibility to work at elasticity," says Victoria.
Students are suspended in hammocks, sometimes several feet off the floor. Once airborne, the parachute like hammocks allow for dozens of positions and movements.
"A lot of times with anti-gravity yoga, they come in not knowing what to expect and then they're a little afraid to do some inversions and flips," says Crunch Fitness instructor Michelle Opperman. "But then, when they get used to trusting the hammock and themselves, they love it."
Opperman says the force of gravity allows students to build strength in core abdominal muscles while releasing tension deep in other muscle groups and the spine.
"Relief in the joints, you begin to find length in the spine, and your joints aren't as compressed," she explains.
And like more traditional forms of yoga, anti-gravity also offers an opportunity to view the world from a different angle, and while suspended, perhaps find a sense of spiritual grounding.
"It also gives you a certain sense of freedom," says yoga student Renee Saedi.
"It gives you time to just breathe and center and stop thinking about everything else going on," agrees Victoria. "You're just focused on your body pose."
There are limitations of course. Some fitness advisors don't recommend the technique for clients who suffer from conditions like high blood pressure, glaucoma or heart issues. But instructors say the system can be tailored to benefit clients with other physical disabilities.
Written and produced by Tim Didion