Defying Gravity

Defying Gravity

Blame it on Cirque du Soleil. The circus-meets-fever-dream productions have been experienced by an estimated 90 million people, many of whom fell in love with the aerial artistry they saw on stage. Who wouldn’t want a strong, sensual physique like those dancers have? The idea went mainstream, and now there are many exercise classes based on the concept: AntiGravity Yoga, AntiGravity Pilates, Aerial Barre, Aerial Vinyasa Yoga, Aerial Hoop… The classes go by many names, but all blend instruction with the use of a hanging apparatus, like silks, hammocks or bars, that support the body’s weight.


Aerial classes build strength and flexibility, and provide a gentle way to do inversions. They allow one to deepen or hold a posture that, unsupported, might not yet be feasible. Joints become more mobile; back pain can be relieved. They’re also a great way to break out of an exercise rut, allowing people of all ages to tap into a sense of playfulness and graceful motion.

What to Wear

Comfy, stretchy clothing that fits closely to your body. Leave jewelry at home, so you won’t get smacked in the face with your own necklace. Bring a yoga mat if it’s a yoga-influenced class, as well as water and a small towel.


People who are pregnant, have had surgery recently, or suffer from heart disease or glaucoma are not advised to take aerial classes. If you have high or low blood pressure, check with your doctor first.

Want to try aerial fitness?

Studios offering aerial classes are surprisingly plentiful, and there are also several brands of aerial fitness that have gone national. AntiGravity Fitness, for example, was founded by Christopher Harrison, a choreographer for aerial arts on Broadway. His methods include AntiGravity Yoga, AntiGravity Yoga: Restorative, and AntiGravity Pilates, and he’s just come out with AntiGravity AIRbarre, which takes ballet barre training and moves it into the air on silk hammocks. Another brand, AIR, was started by a former corporate lawyer, Shama Patel. It’s an intense way to use the silks, incorporating pikes, crunches and V-sits. Michelle Dortignac took her 20 years of yoga teaching experience and developed the Unnata Aerial Yoga method. Here are some places you can try those, as well as other types of aerial classes:
Holding Space at Studio Anya is a collective of master trainers offering instruction in AntiGravity Fitness methods. 49 W. 24th Street, 8th floor, in New York City. 212-604-9766.

Unnata Aerial Yoga sticks closer to traditional yoga asanas, but adds a fabric sling. The brand has classes all over the U.S.; use the website for a state-by-state locator.

Kama Fitness and Nutrition, has Aerial Yoga, Aerial Barre, Aerial Pilates, Aerial Dance and AcroFit. 37 Fremont Road in Sandown, New Hampshire. 603-702-3737.

AirFitNow (see AIR, above) has multiple locations around the country; it’s “an intense aerial fitness training program fusing athletic conditioning with yoga, ballet and Pilates on aerial silk hammocks.”

Aerial Arts of Rochester teaches classes and workshops in Aerial Silks, Aerial Hoop, Acro Bungee, Cirque Fitness, Youth Aerials and Aerial Yoga. 565 Blossom Road, Suite Z, Rochester, New York. 585-201-8202.

Aloft Loft is a huge studio, with 13,000 square feet of space to swing through. It has recreational aerial classes, as well as a professional training program for aspiring aerial artists and instructors. 2000 W. Fulton, Chicago. 773-782-6662

Shine Alternative Fitness has the AntiGravity offerings, as well as classes in Aerial Silks and Aerial Hoop. 6415 S. Tenaya Way, Suite 100, Las Vegas. 702-685-1864.

At Up Flying Yoga, can find Aerial Hoop, Aerial Dance, Aerial Yoga Flow and even Candlelight Aerial Yoga. 11101 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, Calif. 310-893-0941.

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