Bob Herndon, Washington, knew from the first time he flipped upside down in Melissa Duchatschek’s trapeze yoga class that it was exactly what he needed.
A career in construction and a series of life events have left him with debilitating lower back pain due to a loss of cartilage, but a weekly trapeze yoga class makes all the difference.
“It helps control the pain,” Herndon said. “I feel a pop right down by the tail bone and there’s a release. I get out of bed the next morning and can actually walk without using a cane. It helps tremendously.”
Other clients, like Pamela Kennedy, Washington, like the trapeze class because it offers a deeper stretch.
“The floor doesn’t get in the way,” she said. “You can do a deeper stretch or deeper back bend, and you’re secure in the sling. You don’t have to worry about falling out.
“And it’s fun,” she added.
Duchatschek began offering trapeze yoga in February just after she moved her Present Moment Yoga Studio from Heritage Hills Plaza along Highway 47 in Washington to a newly renovated space on Front Street in Downtown Washington.
It quickly became her most popular class. She offers group trapeze classes three days a week, as well as private classes.
Builds Posterior Chain, Improves Grip
Anyone who has taken mat-based yoga classes will find the trapeze class to be a different experience, Duchatschek said, and not just because you are up off the floor. While mat-based classes involve a lot of pushing, flexibility and balance, the trapeze class adds a pulling action.
“What that does is it strengthens the posterior chain in your back, and it improves your grip strength, which we lose a little bit of as we age,” she said. “When you’re in the trapeze, you have to pull to get up and out of it, and there are different exercises we do with just the handles.”
Kennedy, who had been doing mat-based yoga for 15 years before taking Duchatschek’s trapeze class, said she has increased upper body strength as a result.
“I have been trying to go two to three times a week, just for the trapeze class, and I can do some poses now that I wasn’t strong enough to do a couple of months ago. Now they are easy,” she said.
Like Herndon, Kennedy appreciates the upside-down poses.
“You can feel your back release in a way that you can’t get from other stretches,” she said.
That is something most adults can benefit from, Duchatschek said. The sedentary lifestyle most Americans lead — sitting at a desk, in a car, on the sofa — takes a toll on the body, especially the back.
“What this does is it decompresses the spine,” she said. “This takes you all the way upside down, and you are locked in, so you get a nice decompression of the spine. It feels really good in the back of the neck.”
A client who has scoliosis loves the trapeze class because it helps with her back pain, Duchatschek said.
Anyone with serious back or health issues, including pregnancy, should check with their doctor first before taking a trapeze class.
Accommodates Different Abilities
Duchatschek likes to talk with new students to learn their background and what they want to work on before they take their first trapeze class, and for some she recommends they start with a private class.
“That way we can start to build strength, and I can assess their ability,” she said.
“There are times when people go upside down and struggle to come up, but once I teach them where to put their hands and give them direction, then they can pull up.”
Just as with mat-based yoga, Duchatschek offers modifications in the trapeze class to accommodate people’s different abilities.
“We can lower (the trapeze), and they can try working on things from the floor so when they pull up, it’s not so far,” she said.
Trapeze offers a lot of benefits for flexibility too, because it allows people to ease into the moves.
“One of the postures people can’t do is the splits, but with trapeze, you can put your foot in here (the sling) and then just inch your way out,” Duchatschek said. “You can come into the splits as slowly as you want to, whereas on the floor, you have to get into the lunge, you have to wiggle and stretch. But this lets you go at your own pace.”
Back bends are another move made easier with the trapeze because it provides support, she said.
“You can have as much or as little support as you need. There are a lot of steps that make it easier that you don’t get doing it on the floor.”
Ages 6 to 70s
Trapeze yoga has been around for 10 years or more, and Duchatschek had been wanting to bring it to her clients, but she didn’t have the right space. High ceilings are required, and the new Front Street location provided that, she said.
The sling/trapeze, which is made out of parachute material, is weight tested up to 350 pounds, and the straps will hold up to 5,000 pounds, Duchatschek noted.
The class is appropriate for young and old. Her trapeze clients have ranged from ages 6 to 70.
Present Moment has enough trapeze slings to accommodate six clients in a group class. She offers three group classes a week, Mondays at 9:30 a.m., Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 8:30 a.m.
“Eventually what I would like to do is break it up into levels, with a class for beginners and another class for advanced,” Duchatschek said.
Private group classes have been popular with people coming together to celebrate events like a birthday or a bachelorette party. It’s also a good corporate team-building experience, Duchatschek said.
To register for a group class, people need to go online to www.presentmomentyoga.com.
For private classes, people can register online or by calling Duchatschek at 314-960-7853.
The cost is $20 for an hourlong group class or $60 for a private one-hour class.
30-Minute Lunch Yoga Three Days a Week
In addition to trapeze yoga, Present Moment offers a variety of classes and times — five instructors lead classes in basic, family, vinyasa flow, core hatha, restorative, yin, slo flow and dynamic yoga.
Prices range from $5 for a 30-minute lunch class (offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays) up to $125 for a 12-class package.
Two classes are held on Saturday mornings and one on Sunday mornings.
Duchatschek held an outdoor yoga session in Rennick Riverfront Park Saturday, June 20, to celebrate the Summer Solstice. She plans to offer an outdoor session again this Saturday, July 18, at 7 a.m. in the park.
People need to bring their own mats and meet at the riverfront.
What to Wear
There is a lot of high-end beautiful clothing made just for the yoga industry, but Duchatschek said that isn’t necessary to attend a class.
“Just wear something comfortable,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be leggings, but something that when you bend over you don’t feel like you’re exposed or hanging out. Something comfortable and lose fitting is good.”
A lot of men wear longer shorts or, if it’s cooler outside, sweatpants.
People taking the trapeze class need to think about their wardrobe a little more carefully, Duchatschek said.
“How are you going to feel when you go upside down? You don’t want a shirt so baggy that it will fall over your face or fabric that is too slick.”
Shoes are not worn during the class, but people are welcome to wear socks.
People should bring a mat, if they have one, and any props. If someone doesn’t have a mat or props, they can use ones provided by the studio.
For trapeze classes, Duchatschek always provides the trapeze, but people who have their own are welcome to bring it.
‘You’re a Fool If You Don’t Try Yoga’
Herndon credits a Marine Corps buddy with getting him to attend his first yoga class a year ago and he remains forever grateful.
“He said I’d be a fool not to take yoga if I had the opportunity, so I did it,” Herndon said.
The first class he tried was a 60-minute restorative yoga class, and he liked it so much that he signed up for the 90-minute vinyasa flow class the next day. He laughs now remembering how Duchatschek warned him that it would be an intense workout.
“I remember thinking, I’ve been doing construction 30 years, served in the Marine Corps, ran five marathons, what’s a 90-minute yoga class gonna do?” Herndon said. “But she was right. It’s a good workout.”
Now Herndon takes a yoga class every day. He doesn’t look the part of a typical yoga student, but he doesn’t let that bother him.
“I’ll never be able to do a lot of the things some of these ladies can do, but I do what I can do. I go to my edge, do what I can, and it really helps,” he said. “I can’t lift weights and do that stuff anymore.”
And he’s found the yoga doesn’t just help him with his strength and flexibility. It improves his attitude.
“I’m a Christian man . . . but there’s something to this yoga,” he said. “When I do it, I eat better, I’m in a better mood, I’m nicer to people. I’m glad I started doing it.”