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Aerial yoga and other niche classes on Long Island

Anti-gravity yoga participants assume yoga positions at Emerge

Anti-gravity yoga participants assume yoga positions at Emerge Yoga and Wellness in Bellmore, Dec. 17, 2014. Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Feeling like the demands of the holiday season have turned life upside down? Looking forward to things going back to, well, right side up now that New Year's Day has arrived?

Take a moment to reconsider.

Upside down can be quite relaxing, according to the women in the Anti-Gravity Aerial Yoga class at Emerge Yoga and Wellness in Bellmore, where participants use hammocks to help them perform yoga positions while suspended midair. They spend much of the session hanging like bats, ponytails brushing the studio floor.

Throughout the 75-minute class, instructor Kelly McCormack, 39, of Huntington leads the women on their hammocks -- and it's all women, although men are welcome -- through poses that have them stretching flat on their backs, swinging upside-down or lying on their stomachs with arms out at their sides as if flying.

"I'm obsessed with it," says Nicole Rosenberg, 26, of East Meadow. "Through the day, gravity is constantly pushing you down. We're constantly being smooshed. I cannot stress to you enough how amazing it is to invert. It pulls all the stress and tension out of your body."

Says Ashley Werner, 22, of Levittown, a videographer for the Town of Hempstead: "I like doing cool things, different exercising things. This is definitely one of the things that qualifies."

Hammocks, carabiners

Inside the studio, 18 off-white hammocks are suspended from the ceiling by carabiners and rope with loops to enable the height to be adjusted for each participant. At the evening classes, the yoga is done in a dimmed, ballet studio-style room glowing with more than 20 tea light candles to enhance the ambience.

Class begins with participants sitting up in their hammocks, which surround them like cocoons, and leaning forward in a pose that McCormack calls the Floating Child's Pose. "Gently calm the body down. Let the mind clear of all these holiday to-do list items you've been thinking about for days," she tells the women as soft music plays. "Let's concentrate on the important things. Your breath. Your body."

'This is my gym'

"I came here when I was over 200 pounds," says Regina Barton, 55, of Westbury, who has lost 50 pounds since April through a variety of exercise classes, including Anti-Gravity Aerial Yoga. "I don't like the gym. This is my gym."

She says she's been able to embrace the class even though she has herniated discs in her back. "It helps with back pain, it helps with stretching. It gives me a sense of well-being," she says.

Class members wear yoga or workout clothes; co-owner Vanessa Cafiero warns against wearing a loose T-shirt. "If you're wearing a baggy T-shirt, when you go upside down it's going to be in your face," she says.

Anti-Gravity Aerial Yoga isn't the only hammock-based class Cafiero's studio offers. There's also Flying Fitness, which is more cardio- and strength-based; Sweet Flow, which is a slower therapeutic approach; and Anti-Gravity adapted solely for teenagers. "We let them stop and take pictures to put them on Instagram," Cafiero says.

Cafiero, 28, says she started the studio because she wanted a niche market. "I took a class in the city," she says. "I decided to bring that to Long Island."

Anti-gravity aerial yoga

WHEN | WHERE Next session is 7:45 p.m. Wednesday at Emerge Yoga and Wellness, 2579 Merrick Rd., Bellmore. Advanced registration suggested.

INFO 516-781-1078, emergeyogawellness.com

COST $20 per class (new student special: $40 for five classes to be used within one month)

Other niche classes

INTRO TO LYRA

WHEN | WHERE Next class 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Body, Mind and Pole, 460 Jericho Tpke., Mineola

INFO 516-424-2345, bodymindpole.net

COST $20 per 60-minute class.

Body, Mind and Pole launched its aerial hoop class in December. The hoop looks like a Hula-Hoop and is suspended vertically from the ceiling. Students work out upper body and core on or around the hoop, says owner Pattye Bohnet. "I love watching all the Cirque de Soleil stuff. I think it's absolutely beautiful." The studio also offers an aerial hammock class and pole dancing.

TRX CLASSES

WHEN | WHERE Next class 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Aerial Fitness, Hot Yoga and Spin-Sanity, 38 W. Main St., Riverhead

INFO 631-591-3474, aerialfitnesshotyoga.com

COST $20 per 45- to 60-minute class.

Among the offerings are TRX suspension classes, aerial yoga sessions and RealRyder cycling classes, during which the bicycle stays in place but moves left and right with the rider.

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