Flying high: yoga in the skies

Finding your yoga classes a bit tame? Perhaps you should check out aerial yoga: a daring practice that's leap-frogged over the Atlantic. Meera Vohora caught up with founder Michelle Dortignac.


With the fun of a soft trapeze, Aerial Yoga combines basic yoga postures with the miracles of gravity.

Aerial yoga founder Michelle Dortignac has her own definition. She says: "It's a new type of Yoga that combines Yoga Asanas with movements done on an Aerial apparatus.

"The physicality of training on any Aerial apparatus compliments the physicality of the Yoga asanas.

"Shoulders are stabilized while being stretched, core abdominal muscles can be strengthened more easily, and spinal flexibility becomes comfortable to explore."

aerial yogaIf this sounds more than a little daunting, Dortignac is emphatic that this is not the case: Vinyasa Yoga.

She says: "For most people, once you get over that initial bit of fear, you feel both liberated and invigorated. When you're in the air, it's a heart shocker but then you begin to relax."

The classes

So what format does an aerial yoga class take? It begins with sun salutation, progressing to using a fabric trapeze (similar to a hammock) while still standing on the floor. Finally, to using the fabric trapeze to dangle only inches from the floor.

"The slow progression helps boost students' confidence and allows them to be innovative so they can explore their moves in further detail.

"People have no choice but to learn proper alignment thanks to the effects of gravity. Gravity always works, and it always works in one direction." Dortignac explains.

It's a known fact that exercises are easier and more achievable in water; the same applies, she says, to being in the air:

"Being suspended allows you to experience deep backward curves and forward bends while always being supported. Sometimes, you struggle to get that from the floor."

Benefits of the practice are said to include improved alignment, strong shoulders, strong core muscles and greater spinal flexibility.


Certainly, testimonials on Dortignac's website testify to the enjoyment and challenge that can be had from the classes.

One comment reads: "If you're looking for a unique yoga experience, this is it! It's not often you get to giggle and laugh out loud in a yoga class.

"If you think you have limited flexibility, be prepared to discover that you may have more than you think. If you're flexible, be prepared to find your strength."

Another says: "Michelle is able to unburden your mind to the point of levitation when she teaches you standing on good old mother earth.

"By raising your body a few feet, they get to meet again under totally liberated circumstance.

"The removal of classic physical strains makes aerial yoga a wonderful introduction to movement, and provides revelation for the seasoned practitioner."

Inventing the practice

So why has Dortignac decided to develop and teach Aerial Yoga?

After practicing Yoga for 14 year she became certified to teach in 1998, and came to aerial yoga in an attempt to inject some more fun and adventure into the practice.

She has been teaching Aerial Yoga since January 2006 and runs weekly classes in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

She says: "I didn't want to replace terrestrial yoga but to develop another practice as an addition. I wanted to give people permission to fool around, to have fun and to inspire all students to question their own assumptions of limitations."

Meera Vohora is a life coach and freelance PR. She can be contacted at: or on 0845 833 1374




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