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Antigym® or Antigymastique® is a body work method developed by French physiotherapist Thérèse Bertherat in the 1970s. Its popularity has spread outside of France as Antigym practitioners have brought the method across the world, particularly to South America and Europe. Helsinki Times spoke to trained Antigym practitioner, Sonu Manglani, about the method after one of her classes. 

THE CLASS takes place in a bright, well-lit room. We begin by standing on our mats, rotating our knees in and out to get a feel of the way different parts of our body are connected to one another. Sonu gives instructions and asks questions as we move through each subtle movement slowly.

The hour seems pass very quickly as we take a few minutes to focus on each movement and our breath. We go through a series of movements both standing and lying down using different props. We each get a small ball which we place underneath one foot at a time, closing our toes around it and squeezing it. The last movement involves placing a pillow underneath the sacrum in order to allow the lower back to relax fully. The end result is a feeling of total body relaxation and better body awareness. 

“THIS METHOD OF BODY WORK emphasises the harmony between the neck, shoulders, back and sacrum,” explains Sonu after the class. “We pay attention to one specific movement, using the breath to help lengthen and relax the muscles”. The connection between the body, the mind and the breath helps to deepen body awareness, a key aspect of this method. It also provides a wonderful opportunity to focus on oneself amidst the stress fast-paced modern life brings to most people. 

“Most of us overwork certain muscles which leads to compensation from others,” continues Sonu. “One area that is usually overworked is the back area, or what Thérèse Batherat refers to as ‘the tiger’.” In Antigym, your “tiger” refers to the “musculature of the back of your body, arranged in a solid and continuous chain” from the base of the neck to the toes. This chain is often overworked leading to tightness, pain and overcompensation in the front of the body. Antigym aims to lengthen and stretch this chain so that these muscles can finally relax and start working with greater ease and fluidity. 

As it aims to improve flexibility, mobility and reduce stress, this method is a good counterbalance to other physical activity from more labour intense activities like running and gym training to yoga. Sonu herself has been practicing yoga for 15 years. “Since I discovered Antigym 3 years ago, my yoga practice has become more fluid,” says Sonu. 

Antigym is taught in small groups of maximum 10 people, the ideal size of a class is around 3-7 people. It is recommended that Antigym is practiced regularly but no more than once a week as it takes around 5 days for the body to assimilate the changes. Reaping the benefits of Antigym is a process. Like in other forms of physical exercise it takes time and consistency in order to see and feel the changes. 

Sonu holds weekly classes at 9.30am every Monday at Yoga & Wellness Studio in Spektri Business Park in Espoo. 

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