Defying gravity – Jen DeLorenzo’s aerial yoga

Unconventional yoga practice lifts the body and mind.


Imagine practicing yoga while defying gravity — well, actually, not defying it so much as creating a new relationship with the Earth. Watching Jen DeLorenzo teach aerial yoga with skill, kindness, and humor, the participants’ infectious delight is apparent as they experience traditional yoga poses supported by aerial silks that form a comfortable fabric sling.

Taking yoga off the ground and into the air is both beautiful and amusing. It’s beautiful because as you move in, through, and around the silks, you can slide into positions you couldn’t do without them. The fabric takes the pressure off your body, allowing you to lean into a stretch or do a handstand, being held upside down so only your hands or forearms gently touch the floor. It is amusing because students verbally exclaim satisfaction when they accomplish a posture they never imagined they would do in a regular class.

Aerial yoga allows students to work with gravity and with their bodies in new ways. DeLorenzo says, “I use aerial suspension yoga to stabilize, strengthen, and give access to my body where it otherwise wouldn’t. I can do backbends in the aerial suspension, but if I were on the ground it would be painful. I can be upside down floating without any muscle tension whatsoever. And then it feels good, and that supports the mind.”

Aw we gathered downstairs in DeLorenzo’s studio, soothing music filled the space. She began by having everyone stand quietly before the aerial yoga apparatus and take centering breaths. Then, through demonstration and hands-on help, DeLorenzo broke down each move, step by step, describing where to locate the silks on your body, shift your weight, and ways to initiate a movement. There were audible oohs and ahhs each time participants hit a pose and felt their bodies fall into place.

DeLorenzo, who has been teaching since about 2012, calls her practice “aerial arts.”

“It encompasses all of the arts of yoga — breath work, joyful effort, sound, and the poses, although maybe in a different way than we are used to,” she explains. “I love classic yoga, but what I love about aerial arts is that it provides a lot of access. What is beneficial about all yoga, especially aerial suspension yoga, is that the individual can take in a multisensory experience. That’s what creates balance inside. It’s what makes us feel ready for situations. All that, to me, is support.”

DeLorenzo also believes that aerial yoga is a form of memory. “We are remembering how we move as a species, which brings us almost a higher vibration. I like going into an aerial hammock and knowing that in a few minutes, no matter what’s going on, I’m probably going to be in a better place.”

DeLorenzo’s aerial journey began around 2011 when, while studying martial arts training for a first-degree black belt, she sustained an injury that wasn’t healing. She knew that there was a practice of suspending from ropes in martial arts, but knew the material wouldn’t be comfortable. She wanted something gentler because of her injury. DeLorenzo happened upon a teacher training, and she says, “That’s where I fell in love with the modality. I healed my injury and absolutely loved aerial yoga. Once you find something that works and is spectacular, you want to share it, so I was on a mission.”

DeLorenzo started teaching when she moved to the Vineyard with her husband Peter: “It was a really interesting thing to bring to the Island, because this is a small, beautiful, tightly woven community, and aerial yoga was new. A few people from New York City were familiar with it, and it found a home here.”

Peter isn’t a yoga practitioner, but he was taking the class, having only done so once before, in about 2013. “You feel your spine unload. You stand up after, I feel more open,” Peter said after the session. “I’m sitting here going, why aren’t we doing this every day? There’s a stretching and aerobic component. You can feel your heart beating and your muscles working and doing a lot of stabilization.”

Seasonal resident Jane Ebby, a fitness instructor, clearly loved the class: “It was amazing. Even though I do a lot of yoga, I don’t do a lot of inversions. I don’t go upside down because I’m worried that I can’t. Here I did things that I didn’t think I could do. I did things I’ve never done before, and that was really, really freeing.”

DeLorenzo is passionate about sharing aerial arts: “I am a product of mentorship and wellness given to me, and so it’s my life’s journey to continue cultivating and giving back.” She offers sessions for individuals, partners, small groups, and families at her studio, or at your location. All the classes are flexible, scalable, and personalized to suit any level of fitness ability, body, age, and learning style.

DeLorenzo also teaches when local libraries and Community Services offer wellness classes. She works with all the students K–8 at the Oak Bluffs and Edgartown schools, with each child receiving anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour a week. DeLorenzo likewise relishes working with participants from Island Autism: “They do very well with aerial. Their brains are already multisensory, so they are usually the best ones in a group.”

Before we parted for the day, DeLorenzo reflected, “I think it’s important to try something that brings peace, joy, and calm into your world. You never know. It might be aerial. It goes a long way to being able to breathe with joy.”

For more information, contact Jen DeLorenzo at