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Aerial yoga opens up pose possibilities

Epidavros Center for Wellbeing offers a different brand of yoga


by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Sophia Miller, yoga instructor at Epidavros Center for Wellbeing, leads a class in aerial yoga.

The only thing better than the age-old art of yoga is doing it in the air while suspended in a swing.

And one Gresham business has jumped on board to relieve the constant burden of gravity by providing a blend of yoga and acrobatics known as aerial yoga.

“Yoga itself has really exploded, so there are a lot of spin-offs,” said Tara McGuire, co-owner of Epidavros Center for Wellbeing at 223 E. Powell Blvd.

This increasingly popular hybrid incorporates yoga poses by manipulating a swing made of parachute material.

The idea is to provide the same results of standard yoga, but in a fun and relatively easier manner.

Epidavros has installed seven adjustable swings that hang by straps from their studio ceiling. The swings can hold more than 350 pounds.

While performing stretches while airborne can sound intimidating, McGuire said their business takes people’s safety very seriously.

Those afraid of heights can take comfort in how swings are lowered to around knee height and hang over a mat on the floor in the unlikely event you slide out.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK  - Aerial yoga uses swings made out of parachute material, designed to help students improve strength, balance and flexibility.

Attachable handles also are incorporated, allowing for any conceivable posture while creating a safer experience.

McGuire, who thought the class would attract athletic-type clients, was surprised to see everyday people coming in.

“People think you need to be an athlete or acrobat, and that’s not the case at all,” said Sophia Miller, a yoga instructor at Epidavros. “Most people who come in have never done anything like this, and I make sure the class is very accessible and easy to follow.”

Class begins with students lying on their back in the hammock-like swings. They then proceed to warm up, developing a body-mind connection while performing gentle stretches. Once areas of the body are stimulated, they use those areas through poses, ending with resting and more stretching.

“We do some of the poses we do in the regular yoga classes, but we use the swing as a prop,” Miller said.

By using the swing and floor simultaneously, students complete familiar poses such as “downward dog.”

“Basically the swing gives the average student the ability to do things they otherwise couldn’t,” McGuire said.

The swing also has rings on it that when adjusted can make the parachute wide like a hammock or thinner to look like aerial ribbon used in acrobatics.

That’s where the handles come in. They help students hold themselves steady, making it easier to target certain muscles.

Classes are held in a studio where lights strung on the wooden ceiling beams create a dim, relaxing environment.

Although classes are calming and intimate with soothing music, newbies needn’t be afraid of standing out.

“Most people who come here are not ‘yogies,’” McGuire said. This is why Miller instructs from her own swing while also getting up and assisting others who need help maneuvering in theirs.

This beginner-friendly environment is fun and playful, Miller said.

McGuire said they have taught everyone from gymnasts to a 70-year-old woman, but “the majority of regular yoga students are baby boomers,” McGuire said. Common stories they hear are those of retirees who say they now have time to take care of themselves.

McGuire also has instructed 7-year-old kids and a class of teenage girls.

In addition, “Men really like it because they can work hard and get really sweaty.”

And the response from all has been a buzz of excitement.

“I have one lady who’s so over the moon about it, she said she sleeps better and she’s lost weight,” McGuire said.

Students, McGuire said, say they experience deeper flexibility and greater strength, and happily report their back pain is gone.

“For me, I get chiropractic adjustments from being in the swing,” Miller said. “It’s a good way to get cheap chiropractic care.”

One student, Sandra Mershon, found aerial yoga beneficial and upon returning to her second class with sore abs said, “I loved it. I didn’t realize I had done so much.”

Apart from a unique way to increase joint mobility and cardiovascular health, coupled with pain relief, at the very least students can expect to feel more flexible.

“When I started I could hardly reach my shins,” McGuire said. “Now my nose goes there.”

Classes last an hour and are held every Thursday and Saturday. Pre-registration is required, and students can sign up online or by calling. The cost is $15 per class for non-members or $8 for Epidavros members who have bought a class pass.

Things to Know

What: Holistic healing through yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture, pilates, reiki, infrared sauna and Chinese medicine.

Where: 223 E. Powell Blvd., Gresham.

Hours: Reception is open from 1-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 1-5 p.m. Friday. Appointment scheduling is available 24/7.

More info: Call 503-667-1500 or visit epidavrosonline.com



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