For hardcore yogis and newbies to the practice alike, it’s hard to quell the intrigue that hits when presented with the concept behind Y7, the first hip-hop yoga studio of its kind. Originally starting out as a small pop-up in Williamsburg, the one-of-a-kind yoga studio has since gone bicoastal, with permanent locations in New York City and Los Angeles, and has racked up quite the fan base, which boasts such A-listers as Girls’ Zosia Mamet.
Here, Sarah Levey, the co-founder of Y7, chats about the idea behind the studio and why throwing a little bit of Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and A Tribe Called Quest into the usual vinyasa flow is enough to get even the most hesitant yoga-goers happy to hit the mat.
How did you first get into yoga? What was your relationship with fitness before that?
I first got into yoga about 8 years ago when I went with this guy (my now husband). I tried several studios with him but could never get into it no matter how much I wanted to. My relationship with fitness was pretty non existent – I would walk on the treadmill like twice a week and do some weights but that’s it.
What kind of yoga do you practice?
How did you first get the idea to start Y7? Why?
When I couldn’t find a place where I felt like I fit in within the community i decided to create my own.
Can you describe the concept a bit, in your own words?
Sweat dripping, beat bumping, candlelit yoga.
Environment seems to be a big part of the idea here. The classes are really dark and warm, and the music is obviously so different than what people expect in a yoga class. Can you talk about why you did it the way you did?
We made it dark so our clients can feel like they are in their own world – they have the opportunity to explore their practice and their bodies without the distractions of mirrors or the eyes of others. We want people to get a workout and the benefits of infrared heating technology, which has so many benefits to the body. The hip hop music is just fun! Who doesn’t like to workout to a good beat? We also use the music to cue the breath and link it to the movement of the practice.
Y7 started as a pop-up. How did it grow from there, and what has it been like to see it expand in terms of demand, locations, etc.?
It really expanded by word of mouth. Once we had a few paying clients and demand for weekday classes we moved into our small 300 sq. ft. studio that fit only eight students. From there it just kind of snowballed and once we moved into our soho location it really started to take off.
What are some of the different classes that you guys offer?
We only offer two types of classes. Our signature WeFlowHard class is fast-paced with a portion of class where we encourage all clients to flow on their own. It’s designed to give you every benefit of the postures while getting that heart rate up. Then we have Slowburn, which is equally as challenging but you are holding the poses for more than one breath so you are getting deeper into the postures and really making those muscles burn. We also have a variety of workshops for specialty interests like inversions, etc.
Would you say that Y7 works for yogis of all levels?
Absolutely! That is why we offer flow on your own – beginners can go into child’s pose or modify during this portion and those more advanced can explore their poses with binds, balances or inversions.
New York is packed with yoga studios. What do you think Y7 brings to the yoga scene that was really missing before?
I think it was missing a lightheartedness, and element of ease and fun with great music. It doesn’t have to be so serious – especially with everything we all have going on in our daily lives.
How do you hope people can benefit from Y7?
I hope that people will come and realize that their body is their own, they don’t have to look like anyone else. We want people to feel strong and confident with what they come to the mat with. Yoga isn’t perfection – that’s why it’s called a practice.
How do you hope people’s attitude towards yoga in general could benefit from Y7?
I think it gives the person who always thought “Oh, it’s just stretching” or “Yoga isn’t a workout” the opportunity to see that that isn’t the case! There are tons of different types of yoga and I’ve found that Y7 has opened the door for people to explore multiple forms of the practice and realize that they too can benefit – even if they thought yoga wasn’t for them.