I can’t handstand, cartwheel, back-bend or somersault. Some days, I can barely touch my toes. I’ve bought yoga books, DVDs, props and clothing. I have a purple yoga mat and CDs filled with appropriate music. Regardless, I’m stiff as a board. In classes, I always end up intimidated by “The Gumby People”—those who contort themselves into ungodly positions and claim that it makes them feel great.
Okay, I’ll admit it: I am insanely jealous of flexible people.
So, when I got a call from Zen—yes, like “Oprah” or “Cher”—who created a yoga swing that helps the user to stretch, invert and maintain different yoga positions, I was intrigued. According to him, the swing’s possibilities are endless, as it makes certain exercises possible for even the stiffest people.
I drove out to his studio deep in the Haiku jungle to check it out. First of all, the swing is an attractive piece of equipment. It’s made primarily of a bright, high-quality parachute material and looks like a mini hammock with stirrups and handles. Kind of like one of those “Love Swings” that were popular for a while, but not quite so kinky.
It’s also fairly unobtrusive; it hangs from the ceiling by two hooks and can be easily removed and thrown in the closet or a backpack when you’re done. And it’s portable and washable–very important if you want to attach it to a tree branch at the beach and proceed to sweat all over it.
After giving me the run down of its benefits, which include but are not limited to relieving back pain, improving posture, enhancing spinal mobility, boosting brain power, promoting lymphatic drainage and blood purification as well as enhancing relaxation and sleep, Zen demonstrated some exercises.
His body would be amazing even if he were 25, but at over 40 it’s plain phenomenal. As I watched him stretch, invert and soar through the air, it was obvious that he didn’t have the bulky ‘roided out look of a weightlifter, but the lean and cut look of a dancer… or Tarzan. It was also obvious (at the time) that I would never be able to do the things that he did on the swing.
After my lesson, we installed one in my bedroom (it took about three minutes) and I decided to give it five full days before making any more assumptions about what I couldn’t do:
I decide to try a basic inversion. The act of getting the pressure off your organs and more blood to your brain is supposed to be really good for you. Also it looks really cool. I support my lower back with the sling, hold on for dear life and lean back while simultaneously opening and then hooking my legs around the upper portion of the sling. Upside down, I feel the blood rush to my face, which in turn makes my eyeballs feel like they will explode. After swaying back and forth for about seven seconds, I feel nauseous and get off the swing. Then I take a shower and go to bed.
After suffering through too many horseback riding accidents and car crashes, my lower back feels perpetually locked. This tightness has screwed with my belly dancing, bootie drop and swagger for far too long. I decide that today I will fix that problem once and for all on the swing. I place the sling against my upper back, hooking it under my armpits. With a little maneuvering, I get my toes into the stirrups and point my legs forward. I’m now suspended by my armpits and toes, which completely stretches out my back. I begin hearing things crackle and pop. I hang there until I can take no more. Before hitting the sack, I invert. It feels the same as yesterday, but I force myself into an extra seven seconds. Somehow I survive.
I don’t get on the swing. Instead, I drink coffee, surf the web and watch videos of people who do all kinds of crazy stuff on similar contraptions. This may be why most of my exercise regimens fail. Not to be a sissy, but my back hurts. Not in an injured way, but more like a “Why the hell are you stretching me?” way.
Time to test some cool new moves that I learned. First, I go through some stretches using the swing as support, then I do some resistance strengthening exercises. I feel the burn. I end the workout with an inversion. Surprisingly, I don’t feel as nauseated this time, possibly because I chose to workout in the early morning before breakfast rather than at bedtime after a full meal. Duh.
My muscles hurt. This is good, right? It means something is happening. Not just that, I can now touch my toes without pulling something critical. I work out similar to yesterday, but go even longer on my inversion. I realize that I probably need to keep at this routine for a while before seeing outstanding results, but for the record, I can definitely feel that something good is happening to my body. Plus, the more time that I spend on the swing, the more I visualize alternative creative uses for it. Some of the positions are quite compromising, if you get my drift…
For more on the yoga swing, visit www.gravotonics.com, www.omgym.com or contact Zen at 572-2524 or www.myspace.com/zengravitymaster MTW