Shakti Aerial Yoga and Dance studio opens in Sterling

Neelam Kataria, founder and director of the studio, is hoping to bring the benefits of aerial yoga to Loudoun County, such as balance, fitness and meditation.

Aerial yoga consists of grounded and suspended yoga poses, allowing the individual to benefit from balance, alignment and deep stretches. (Photo courtesy of Shakti Aerial Yoga and Dance)

Take a moment to imagine yourself doing yoga. It’s calm and peaceful. Except this time, rather than being on your mat, you’re hanging from an aerial silk attached to the ceiling.

It may sound impossible, or unthinkable. But Neelam Kataria doesn’t think so.

“This class is a feeling of letting go and trusting yourself,” says Kataria, founder and director of newly opened Shakti Aerial Yoga and Dance in Sterling. The aerial yoga practice, consisting of different grounded and suspended yoga poses, is just one of an array of classes the new location offers.

Students can find themselves gently swaying in silk during a restorative aerial class, practicing deep meditation in yoga nidra (known as a “divine sleep”) or testing their core strength at an aerial hoop class.

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“One of the reasons I decided to open a space for aerial yoga was because people loved it so much once it was making such a change in their bodies and in their lives,” says Kataria. “Once you connect with your body, there are a lot of advantages with your own feelings of your body and where you are in space.”

Kataria is also the owner of Aradia Fitness, a pole dancing studio in Ashburn that has offered aerial yoga classes, hoop classes and various fitness classes in the past. When she decided to expand to a second location in Sterling, she decided it needed to be different.

“I am at an age where yoga is really speaking to me now. I am 48 years old and I am a lover of dance and a lover of yoga, and I did not see any spaces in our area that offered a combination of the two,” says Kataria, who is also a classically trained dancer in bharatanatyam (a form of Indian traditional dance that expresses Southern Indian religious themes and spiritual ideas).

“I think dancing is an essential element for many of us, and I know that dance is a form of meditation for me. I have a total alignment of mind, body and soul, which is meditation,” says Kataria. “So, to open this studio was a perfect combination of yoga and dance.”

Shakti opened its doors in September and has been teaching people to hang, release and “fly” ever since, but it has also taught weekly lessons on belly dancing, restorative practices and odissi, a class focused on strengthening and conditioning the entire body, as well as the basics of odissi dance.

And, according to Kataria, everything is about bringing a new sense of self-awareness to those who are willing to try.

“My classes are more about finding yourself, and finding the feeling deep within you,” says Kataria. “I hope people come and discover that [feeling] for themselves. That is my intention.”

That “feeling” and self-awareness that Kataria speaks of is what inspired her to name the location after the Sanskrit word meaning “power,” or “empowerment.” Shakti, she says, is the energy that created the universe and a power that manifests itself in all of us.

As an Indian immigrant, Kataria is proud of her rich cultural roots and her ability to bring the energy and purpose into her classes, which she says, might be lost in other yoga experiences because they are rushed or too focused on other elements of the practice.

“This community was in great need of yoga,” says Kataria. // Shakti Aerial Yoga and Dance Studio: 45630 Falke Plaza, Suite 270, Sterling; class times and prices vary

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