Yoga on High

By Amanda Henry
In Culture, Feature

Lilly Steele Fitness takes traditional yoga to new heights.

 

Lilly Steele Fitness in Clayton takes aerial arts beyond the acrobatics of its circus origins for an increasingly popular new form of body conditioning. By integrating traditional yoga and ballet techniques into aerial workouts, Steele’s classes bring an intensity—and excitement level—like no other.

Steele opened her fitness studio in January to combine two passions—performing arts (particularly of the circus and ballet varieties) and helping others find joy in staying fit. For students bold enough to ascend the silk towers, the aerial yoga classes work with and against gravity, using fabric to help stretch and strengthen the body.

The suspension of your body creates a unique sideways stability that forces you to work harder than you would on the ground to strike the same pose. With your weight supported by fabric hammocks, things you would normally do on the ground—like a plank—are more intense. But what makes aerial yoga so unique is the ability to move from positions like the plank directly into a tuck, which isn’t possible on the ground. Movements between these positions require the core and small muscles to work harder than in a grounded yoga workout.

Steele says it’s best to approach aerial yoga more like a personal training session than a yoga class. It’s all about strengthening, with less of a focus on balance and breathing. Knowing the basics of circus-style aerial arts is a good foundation (Steele teaches intro-level aerial fabrics classes at the neighboring Pilates + Yoga Studio), but aerial yoga requires less climbing and more active rest.

“People always say they don’t have time to work out or working out is boring, but for the most part, people enjoy dancing and moving,” Steele says. “I like to approach fitness in a way that is a little more enjoyable than sitting at a machine and lifting a weight in this particular way, in this particular pattern. It’s an experience as opposed to a workout.”

 

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Photo credit: Kalie Long

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