AIRBarre dance-based fitness classes defy gravity

By Dorene Internicola NEW YORK (Reuters) - AIRBarre, a new group fitness class, combines the dance-based moves of a ballet barre class with the suspension hammocks of anti-gravity yoga for a workout that experts say can boost strength, coordination and endurance. In the class, hammocks attached to the ceiling replace the traditional ballet barres and allow exercisers to stabilize even as they take flight. “AIRBarre is a fitness technique that integrates traditions of dance,” said Lorianne Major, a group instructor in New York City at Crunch, a U.S. gym chain. “The hammock allows for three-dimensional movement you can’t repeat with a regular barre.” The hammocks from which clients hang, lean, suspend or balance, act as stabilizers for a range of bends, jumps and turns, Major said. “The hammock allows the experienced dancer to get more air time in jumps and the non-experienced dancer to find proper alignment by taking the strength of the barre into the air,” she said. AIRBarre is the latest creation of Christopher Harrison, a former Broadway dancer who is also credited with launching anti-gravity yoga in 2007. Although the moves are based on ballet, Major said it is suitable for everyone. Health and fitness expert Andrea Metcalf, who teaches a barre class in Chicago, said adding the anti-gravity element can increase balance and coordination and tap hard-to-reach postural and upper back muscles. “Anything in standing or sitting (positions) can’t hit those muscles,” said Metcalf. “Hanging accesses those muscles better.“ But she cautioned that proper form is essential. “Because you’re in inversions there’s always the risk of falling,” she said. “Understanding the movement is key, so watch yourself in the mirror and if you’re not sure what you’re supposed to be feeling, ask.” Jessica Matthews, senior health and fitness expert for the American Council on Exercise, said if done safely, adding an aerial component can challenge the exerciser psychologically, as well as physically. “The body adapts to the challenges we place on it so if we want to gain in flexibility, endurance, balance, we must challenge it differently,” she said. “(Being) upside down can build strength and flexibility in the average exerciser who doesn’t spend much time there.” For the newcomer who is afraid of heights, Major said, the third class is usually the charm. “You have to trust the hammock, which can hold over 1,000 lbs (454 kg), you have to trust the instructor, who is certified, and you have to trust yourself. (Editing by Patricia Reaney and Lisa Shumaker)

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