Yoga classes are flying high at the Kroc Center of Memphis

May 17, 2019 | by Brad Rowland

Yoga classes are flying high at the Kroc Center of Memphis

By: David Ibata

Is "aerial yoga" a passing fad or the next big fitness option? One or the other, it's generating plenty of buzz for The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Center in Memphis, Tennessee.

"It's a lot of fun," instructor Katie Veach said. "People enjoy the inversion part of the class; that is what makes it a unique challenge. In most fitness and yoga classes, you don't have the ability to go upsidedown."

In April, the Kroc Center in Memphis became one of the first in the area to offer VATA Aerial Yoga. A New York Times article of 2011 credits the idea, also known as "suspension yoga" and "anti-gravity yoga," to "Christopher Harrison, a former aerial acrobat and gymnast who found traditional yoga too hard on his injured wrists."

To teach it, Kroc Center staffers completed certified instructor training from YogaBody, an international yoga education center and seller of yoga trapezes, accessories and other supplies. Veach, who also is health and recreation director at the Kroc Center, said the trapeze "is like a hammock or a sling, and has handles. It's a cool and unique apparatus."

The Kroc Center introduced VATA aerial yoga in April during a spring promotion of new health and wellness programs. One-hour classes meet twice a week; monthly workshops also are offered. The additional-fee program has a drop-in rate of $8 a session or $40 a month. Kroc Center members with studio passes have unlimited access.

Currently, about 20 people a week participate – women and some men, as young as 16 and as old as in their 60s. Classes have an average attendance of eight; one-on-one training also is available. Students meet in the third-floor Challenge Center, where the functional training area can be found. "We already had mounts for TRX straps, so we just had to add more hooks," Veach said.

"People are really excited about it," she said. "I've talked to someone about it every day since we launched the program. Our own Kroc staff has expressed interest and participated in the class during office hours. Both our members and employees have really taken to it, faster than any other programs we've added."

Participants quickly come to appreciate the stress relieving aspect of hanging upside-down.

"It's inversion therapy," Veach said, "which provides instant traction to the spine to relieve back pain, allows for flexibility for deeper backbends and shoulder openers, and trains functional strength to the core and full body."

"Right now, it's an open-level class. We don't have beginner or advanced levels yet; we'll see if we want to add that after we've gained more exposure."

The sky is the limit for the Kroc Center of Memphis.

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