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'Vozdu' creates suspense

A new form of yoga created by Valencia's Aerial Experience Production is an uplifting experience

Posted: October 1, 2009 9:11 p.m.
Updated: October 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Kinsley Johnson, right, and Debbie Park, far left, perform a suspended yoga pose during a Vozdu class at Valencia's Aerial Experience Productions.

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Most workouts don't advocate just hanging around.

Vozdu, the suspended yoga program created by Lee and Debbie Park of Valencia's Aerial Experience Productions, encourages students to do precisely that.

Knotted bolts of soft tricot cloth are strewn across a metal staging truss in the large gym, approximately three feet off the ground, for students to suspend from during the 50-minute class at the Industrial Center location.

Vozdu, "the Russian word for air," Lee Park said, starts out with traditional yoga floor poses and segues to recreating the moves while hanging on the fabric ropes.

Aerial Experience productions will demonstrate vozdu during the Santa Clarita Festival of the Arts on Main Street in downtown Newhall this Saturday and Sunday.

Laura Grenot of Newhall, who has a dance background, began participating in Vozdu a few months ago.

She maneuvered the tricot rope with grace, swinging gently while executing a tree pose.

"It's exhilarating, very enlightening. You learn a lot about yourself and how to push through your limits," she said. "Occasionally, I get scared, but this is definitely a supportive atmosphere to work through it."

Usually held on Tuesdays or Thursdays at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Vozdu is open to students of all yoga abilities, though a fair level of basic fitness is encouraged.

"You have to hold yourself up in the air, safely, so a person's strength to weight ratio is a factor," Lee Park said. "Nothing will get you stronger, faster, than holding up your own body weight."

The Parks, former national level gymnasts and ice skating partners who recently finished a four-year stint with the European production of "Stars on Ice," patterned the unique merger of yoga and aerial skills on their pre-performance workouts.

"There's a tremendous advantage to the depth of positions you can achieve while suspended in the air. It's low impact, yet very demanding," Lee Park said. "It adds excitement to fitness."

Adding excitement to sports is nothing new to the Parks, whose company provides customized, elite acrobatic entertainment for corporations such as Audi, Firestone and Snapple.

During Snapple's white tea product launch, Debbie Park hung 150 feet in the air from a hot-air balloon without a harness while performing aerial maneuvers above thousands of onlookers.

After such thrill-laden routines, Debbie Park, who performed as the stunt double for Jamie Lee Curtis in the upcoming Disney movie "You Again," appreciates the serenity of Vozdu.

"I'm always on fast forward, so it's nice to slow down and enjoy the process for once. You're not in a big hurry here. With everything else, there's a rush to get to the end. It's refreshing," she said.

In an effort to create a national exercise craze comparable to step aerobics or kickboxing, the Parks are licensing Vozdu to gyms and fitness clubs across America.

"It's experiential in nature and that's what American fitness enthusiasts love right now," Lee Park said. "It's really catching on. We're just in the beginning phases."

College of the Canyons dance instructor Wendy Hassenpflug has been practicing Vozdu off and on for the last year. She took her students to Aerial Experience Productions for a field trip and has since tried to incorporate similar movements and flows into her curriculum.

Hassenpflug is so impressed with Vozdu, she is making it the subject of her California State University, Northridge thesis.

"The suspension opens space and allows for decompression of the spine. There other great benefits. You get a pressure point or shiatsu massage from the fabric. There's nothing else like it," Hassenpflug said with a smile.

During their four years in Europe, the Parks, who also have Aerial Experience Production offices in Las Vegas and Milan with staff of more than 200 world-class and Olympic-level athletes, would retreat back to the Santa Clarita Valley whenever possible.

As their way of giving back to the community, the Parks are offering Vozdu free for residents (donations are also accepted).

"We've been blessed beyond belief. We're not out to make money here," Lee Park said. "Our schedule is evolving and we're open to expanding if there's more interest. If the gym fills up, so much the better."

Aerial Experience Productions is located at 28348 Constellation Road, Suite 820, Valencia.

Vozdu classes are taught on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Call (661) 257-3900 for a current schedule.

For more information, visit www.aerialexperience.com.

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