Last fall, Neelam Kataria opened Shakti Aerial Yoga and Dance in Sterling with hopes of bringing the gravity-defying practice to NoVA. In her classes, attendees might recognize a few standard yoga poses, but many new ones may come as a challenge: hanging upside down, wrapping one’s legs with the silk or even trying to lengthen splits from the floor or the ceiling. During savasana (the part of the class where you get to lay back and relax), the sense of peace and serenity during the rest time is elevated—literally. Yogis hang in aerial silks and sway, suspended in the air, while listening to Kataria’s soothing meditations. “You get to be in your own little bubble of bliss,” says Kataria, who has been practicing aerial yoga for nearly four years. Here, we caught up with her about her experience in the studio and how the practice has been transforming yogis in Northern Virginia.
What has been one of your favorite memories in the studio so far?
I have a student who is overweight immensely, and when she first started, she was very hesitant to take aerial yoga. So she started with private sessions, and in every one, she would have this epiphany about how she perceived her body and how she tells herself all of the things she cannot do. And now she’s taking regular classes and she is the most encouraging person. She’ll say, “You can do this, you can do this.” Now she does hangs without any inhibition because she knows she’s not too heavy. And it’s been one of the most heartfelt things.
What would a first-time student experience at an aerial yoga class?
I think of it as a journey. Physically, there is a decompression of your spine. And I cue my class to open their eyes and actually feel what their body is doing, and where it is in space, so they can feel how their body is feeling, rather than what they think their body looks like. And mentally, you will notice the challenges that you see are not necessarily challenges (in life and in the class). They are just your creation because you tell yourself, “I cannot do this.” I have students visualize and look to see the challenges, but actually feel what their bodies can do and how it feels in that particular moment.
What does it mean to you to be able to bring this practice to NoVA?
I absolutely love it. I know that my energy is going to attract a similar energy, so I am just waiting for those people to find what I have to offer. // 45630 Falke Plaza, Suite 270, Sterling