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Levitation Nation’s New Owner Exemplifies Body Positivity

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

Each spring, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, Montana Woman Magazine honors influential women of the past, present, and future. As a health and fitness columnist for the magazine, I am called to highlight women who are transforming our wellness landscape. This year, I am honored to introduce a woman in my own inner circle, Deidre Ingraham. I met Deidre a decade ago when she came in to take my aerial silks class. Fast forward ten years, and she is the new owner of the Levitation Nation Aerial Studio in Kalispell, Montana. A self-proclaimed “curvy girl dancer” who regularly uses hashtags such as #plussizefitness, #curvyandfit, #curvygirlsdoitbetter, and #curvylife, Deidre is working hard to spread her messages of body positivity. One of her first actions as the new studio owner was to define Levitation Nation’s mission and expand upon the studio’s motto. The studio’s new mission is to create a safe space to discover a love for movement and body positivity, and the studio’s original motto, “fitness is fun,” has now been expanded to include the catchphrase “every BODY is a pole and aerial body.”


I am grateful for this opportunity to interview Deidre and help spread her messages on body positivity.

 

Mindy: Can you tell us about yourself and the path to your movement practice and the ownership of the Levitation Nation Aerial Studio?


Deidre: I am local to Montana, born in Whitefish. As a kid, my parents signed me up for ball sports (soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball), but I was not a fan of any of them. I gave yoga a try and, at first, I thought yoga wasn’t really for me; but eventually I found a teacher that I vibed with. After that, I explored a yoga practice at home and use it still today as a mental refresh. My love of movement really started to spark when I got involved with swimming and roller derby. Roller derby was great cardio but I wanted a lower-impact sport, so when I saw your aerial silks in the non-credit section of the college catalog, I definitely wanted to give it a try, and thus began my aerial journey. I stayed with the silks for a while, but I was definitely excited to try pole and the other apparatuses.


I trained on all the apparatuses here in Kalispell for a few years, but then my husband got a job in Missoula. Moving away from this studio and the openhearted community here was really heartbreaking. But, I joined the aerial studio there and slowly began to discover their community as well. They wanted to bring me on as an instructor, so I did three years of teacher training and got certified through their certification program. Right when I got approved to teach, they actually shut down to transition the aerial studio to the Westside Theater.


So, I pivoted and opened Twisted Fitness 406. We focused mostly on pole because that was the time of COVID, and the poles were so easy to disinfect. And it was really popular; there were a lot of people who wanted to experiment. I also taught aerial yoga for the University of Montana. Meanwhile, I took on my own employee, Kimberly, at Twisted Fitness, and she took over the business when I moved back here. So, I ran that business for almost three years and it did pretty well.


Mindy: Can you tell us about improvements you have seen in your life as a result of your aerial training?


Deidre: Aerial arts has definitely helped me to discover a love for movement. It has been great fitness-wise because it helps keep me motivated to want to keep learning, and that’s important because it’s so easy to lose motivation.


At first, my practice was about doing the next big trick, as it usually is when new aerialists start out; and that was good for a year or two. But, after I had been training for several years, my training became about longevity, and I knew I needed to take care of my body a little bit more when it came to how I trained. So, I stopped pushing myself to do the next big trick and started paying attention to how moves felt when I tried something new. If a move felt good, I started investing and training in that movement. If it was something that didn't feel good, but I really wanted it, I did a lot of research about the skill, and then eventually something would unlock and I would reassess.


This really helped me create a connection with myself emotionally. Training in this manner has helped me explore who I am as a person and discover, “hey, I like this” or “hey, I don't.” Or, “this feels good to me” or “this doesn’t.” It’s helped me be able to draw boundaries and decide what I do or don’t want to be a part of my life.


Mindy: Tell me about your motto,“every BODY is a pole and aerial body.”


Deidre: It’s addressing the misconception that you have to look a certain way or be strong enough to do something. Every body, no matter how big, how small, how short, how tall; this is a place that welcomes you to come and explore and get comfortable in your body. Our instructors can offer modifications to meet people at their fitness level and help them discover what we have to offer. Aerial and pole are really adaptable for every body.


Mindy: Do you have any challenges that have stood out for you as a plus-sized dancer that you've been able to overcome?


Deidre: Getting movement is slower for me, but I feel that my struggle as a plus-size body has helped me as an instructor to be able to meet any person wherever they are. If they are deconditioned, just getting back into fitness, or exploring fitness for the first time, that's cool. We will adjust things to your level. We still get movement, exploration, and success doing fun poses, and hopefully it will light the fire for a love of aerial.


Mindy: What message do you have for women who may feel insecure about their bodies or feel pressured to live up to a particular standard?


Deidre: We only get one journey with our body, so we might as well learn to embrace and explore with it. I don’t like it when people tell me they want to lose weight because I think it is really cheapening an underlying reason there. Because usually, if you press them about why they want to lose weight they're like, “Well, I want to look better in my clothes,” or “I want to feel better in my body,” or “I want to be able to go on a hike,” or whatever underlying thing. So, I think we need to dive deeper into the initial idea of losing weight and explore it and get comfortable with where we are, and then we can grow from there. It's not about looking at the future; it's about starting the journey now and enjoying that as well.


Mindy: What is your favorite apparatus and why?


Deidre: It’s so hard to choose. I always come back to aerial hammock, which is a silk fabric rigged with a loop at the bottom. You can always get a good workout in on the hammock no matter where you are in your fitness journey. The loop at the bottom makes it accessible for all fitness levels because it’s the easiest apparatus to invert on because of the support the loop gives you on your back. We can rig it nice and low to the floor, and it’s also the softest.


I also appreciate pole for similar reasons because your feet are on the ground, and we are just working off the ground when people are ready. Sometimes we just let gravity do the work with fun spins and poses on the ground. Aerial Hoop is accessible for beginners, too, because it has a nice bar to rest on. Aerial silks are for people that want to go full-on boss mode, but silks are where I started and we do have curriculum for beginners on silks too.


Mindy: Is there anything else?


Deidre: I feel like my experiences have prepared me for taking over ownership of the Levitation Nation Aerial Studio. I have experienced being a client, an instructor, and an owner. I am grateful that Twisted Fitness 406 was a place where I could experiment and grow, and now I feel very set up for success here.


Our aerial community is so great, and it's made up of so many wonderful people—not just our instructors, but clients too. Every single person that comes to the studio makes this studio the wonderful and safe place that it is. Which is our mission: to create a safe space to discover a love for movement and body positivity. That does not mean just for people exploring fitness, but maybe exploring who they are. Maybe they've transitioned bodies, maybe they have had a big change in their lives, maybe there's not a good situation in their house and they need a space that's just for them. That's this space. We are that space. We are open to every BODY.

Find Deidre and Levitation Nation on the web:



Article by Mindy Cochran. Mindy is a columnist for "Montana Woman Magazine." Her column "The Real Levitation Experience" shares expertise for elevating health & wellness that she has acquired through her certifications as a personal trainer, nutrition coach, and life coach. Mindy is also the founder of Kalispell’s Levitation Nation Aerial Studio, where the catchphrase “fitness is fun” is embodied alongside a culture of movement & women empowerment. For more about Mindy, please visit: https://www.levitationnation.org/mindy.

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