How One Studio Is Using Hip-Hop To Change What People Expect From Yoga

Managing Editor, Music

Courtesy of Y7

For most people, hip-hop and yoga sit on opposite ends of a wide divide. The former invokes bass-rattling beats and fiery rhymes from street-raised MCs, the latter is focused on achieving a sense of quiet zen — accented by flute music and skinny girls in tight-fitting leggings.

But these two extremes don’t actually need to be as far away from each other as that spectrum dictates. At least, not according to Sarah and Mason Levey. The married couple founded Y7 — a hip hop yoga studio — after they moved to Brooklyn, NY. Sarah was at a loss for a place to practice yoga that hewed closer to her preferences for a darkened room, loud music, and fast, aerobic flows. Unable to find anything that fit, the pair decided to start offering classes themselves.

It was a hit and, as demand kept growing, they launched more studios in New York, eventually expanding the company to LA. In the years since, they’ve only continued growing — recently adding a new studio in Silver Lake, just down the block from my apartment. If packed out classes on the weekend and a full house on a recent press day are any indications, it feels like they picked the right location.

Back in 2015 when the couple was just opening their second New York studio, I spoke with them for Brooklyn Magazine after a friend coaxed me into trying yoga by promising that Drake would be involved. It was a strong selling point. Always skeptical of the cult of thin bodies and what I then perceived to be gratingly serene music, yoga never felt like a place I could safely express myself. But with Drake… that I could manage.

It was the familiarity of music I knew and loved — first Drake, then other rap and upbeat R&B playlists that the teachers make each week — that helped make the foreign, timeworn poses feel like something attainable.

Yes, yoga is an ancient Eastern practice and hip-hop originated as the roiling cry of disenfranchised Black communities in the Bronx and beyond, but both forms have arguably become so popular they’ve grown beyond their origins — becoming useful tools for people the world over to use in service of self-expression and self-care. On a recent Sunday morning, as a queer Black teacher led us through a vinyasa flow sequence he created and soundtracked with “Ric Flair Drip,” the best song off 21 Savage, Metro Boomin, and Offset’s joint album Without Warning, this all seemed epically clear.

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