Have you ever dreamed a vision of yourself on stage, surrounded by lights and accompanied by music, performing tranquil acrobatics like you have seen in Cirque du Soleil?

It’s the start of a new year, and a good time to try something new, so why not let your New Year’s fitness routine include a class at Circus School?

Currently sweeping through the fitness world is the emerging trend of aerial fitness classes. These circus-inspired arts are no longer limited to performances by professionals, or a specialization that takes a lifetime of dedication.

Aerial yoga, silk, and hoop classes are a wonderful way to embark on a new activity that combines the beauty of art with the power of fitness. For the past few years, this chic new trend has been offered in the Niagara Region. Open to males and females of all age groups, aerial arts are fun and challenging, and provide extraordinary benefits for both physical and mental health.  Experts encourage changing your fitness routines frequently so that your body doesn’t get used to one type of exercise.  Aerial fitness classes prompt you to get outside your comfort  zone and make your body work harder, utilizing muscles and enabling flexibility in areas of your body which are not engaged in normal gym workouts.

The modern history of circus performances dates back to the 1700s, but the current interest in aerial silks was first officially recognized in 1998. It was presented by two artists, Isabelle Vaudeville and Isabelle Chasse, during a performance called Quidam, as part of the Cirque du Soleil show. Although there were some earlier experiments, this was the act that sparked the emerging trend of aerial silk and aerial yoga as we know it today.

Like all professional acts, the tricks we see on stage are very technically advanced, but with aerial arts it is quite easy to progress with relatively simple moves. This sense of accomplishment motivates us to persevere with the activity, especially as we recognize the achievements in our overall fitness goals. Aerial fitness classes combine strength and flexibility training in an airborne activity that transforms into a beautiful display of art. All lessons begin with proper stretching and conditioning exercises, and advancements are done under the supervision of certified professionals. Whether your goals are primarily health and fitness focused, or you have dreams of performing on stage, aerial yoga, silk, or hoop classes provide excellent benefits for mind and body.

Aerial Yoga:

Aerial yoga combines traditional yoga poses, pilates, and dance in the use of a hammock suspended off the ground. The purpose of aerial yoga is to provide a similar workout to other spiritual disciplines with benefits to both the body and mind.  You stay close to the ground when performing the poses with your body weight supported in the fabric, allowing you to perform poses that may be more challenging when done on the floor.  The activity provides a total body workout, as almost all parts of the body are forced to move and stretch, toning the muscles, and regenerating the joints. Suspended aerial fitness releases tension on the bones and muscles, whilst increasing spinal and shoulder flexibility, and strengthening the core. Yoga when done in the air is surprisingly low impact. Your body weight is taken off the ground, causing less pressure for the joints and less chance of injury from engaging in weight-bearing activities such as running.

Aerial Silk:

Aerial silk is similar to aerial yoga, except that the classes are designed to teach specific poses and combinations to create an artistic performance. The structure of the silk is either one long piece of nylon fabric, or two joined together at the top, and these ribbons are used to perform acrobatic positions while suspended in the air.  Through a series of techniques including climbs, locks, wraps, drops, and striking poses, the fabric is used to manoeuvre through a sequence, which flows into a majestic routine. What makes aerial arts so fascinating for spectators is that the performers rely only on the use of their strength and training to ensure their safety. Silk classes are usually offered in sessions that last several weeks, where the participants learn new moves to incorporate into a final end of semester recital.

Aerial Hoop:

Aerial hoop or ‘lyra’, is a circular apparatus resembling a large steel hula hoop suspended above the ground. Artists use the hoop to perform a sequence of poses, and advanced performers will perform solo or sometimes in pairs as the hoop is spinning, swinging, and raised and lowered from the ground. Manoeuvring around the hoop is a total body workout that requires flexibility, strength, and a powerful grip. Hoisting your body weight tones the arms and back, as well as requiring super core strength to curl your body weight upwards. Classes may be designed for more of a workout like aerial yoga, or may be geared towards learning a routine to be presented in a final showcase.

Health Benefits:

Your aerial fitness class may breeze by, but you can expect to burn 300-400 calories during an aerial fitness class or workout. As with all workouts, with experience and increased intensity of the exercise, greater calorie burns can be achieved. Additionally, the muscle mass that is developed increases your metabolic rate so you can burn more calories when your body is at rest. Movements done in aerial workouts may appear to be graceful and effortless, but they require upper body strength, engaging the arms, shoulders, back and core. The strengthening also helps with the soft tissue such as ligaments and tendons, to help prevent injuries when engaging in other rigorous forms of exercise. Stretching and working with the flexibility of the motions in aerial poses also aides with posture both while sitting and standing.  As aerial arts have roots in yoga, the fitness classes are known for their benefits with mental health. Yoga is known for its ability to bring about feelings of calmness and relaxation, and mood is known to be heightened when performing aerial activities due to the increased flow of oxygen to the brain. Aerial arts also help with self-esteem, as the poses take a lot of self-trust working at heights, and you overcome fears while mastering these skills, creating a profound sense of achievement.


Aerial and circus arts have developed a close-knit community, and a strong presence on social media. In aerial fitness classes, there is little competition and students are encouraged to work at their own pace and listen to their bodies. Students help each other with their form, poses, and watch out for each other’s safety, which builds a strong sense of community between classmates. Classes in aerial fitness are kept small, allowing those attending weekly classes to learn and advance together, regardless of their original skill level. If you are interested in checking out Aerial Dance in the Niagara Region, visit paradisaea-aerial.com/ for information on classes.

Aerial Performances and Bartending:

You can even add a circus-inspired production to your next event by hiring aerial artists and bartenders to perform and serve cocktails while suspended in the air. Paradisaea Aerial Dance offers their talents to ensure your party is an occasion to remember.

Read more fitness articles, including Body of Work.