If you have been following me for even a short amount of time you know that I am admittedly a fitness junkie. A good sweat session is one of the few things I genuinely get excited about when I wake up every morning outside of tacos. After graduating from college I fell in love with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as a way to kick off mornings before heading into the office or sweating it out after a stressful day. HIIT, while extremely effective, is also incredibly taxing on the body. I found it difficult to recover after back to back classes, my body sending signals that I needed to care for and stretch my muscles outside of the brief warm ups and cool downs that were offered during these sessions.
Yoga was something that I had never tried but I had preconceived notions about – mainly that everyone sits in silence in a room playing Caucasian elevator music for an hour or more while pretending to be zen. The idea of straying from my routine and the fast-paced nature of HIIT and bootcamp was unsettling, and anything that was not going to help build muscle and/or burn hundreds was not of interest to me. I was also on autopilot everyday beginning my career at a top talent agency with no desire or perceived need to slow down or recharge. While I was physically fit, this was likely one of the unhealthiest times of my life.
Around this time a friend of mine introduced me to Y7, a hot vinyasa yoga class founded in New York. I was terrified at the idea of yoga itself, even more so of doing it in a room heated to 90 degrees. My prayers were answered when I discovered that Y7 is a first of its kind hip-hop yoga studio, featuring a specialized hip-hop ONLY playlist each session and a themed playlist every Wednesday and Sunday. It was almost love at first sight: immediately upon entering the studio I was greeted with calming aromas and Nas playing over the sound system.The room itself was pitch black with candles scattered throughout the space and, as advertised, hot as hell. Instantly I was calmed, having finally found a refuge high above the bustling streets below.
Y7 has put a modern shift on the ancient practice of yoga, and it is not difficult to see why people are hooked. The 60-minute session consists of a savasana (rest) and three separate guided flows which are practiced twice with the instructor followed by once on your own. Now if my mentioning of “savasana” had you confused AF, please note that going into my first formal yoga session my knowledge of yoga terms started at child’s pose and ended at downward dog – aka I knew nothing. I followed as best as I could while being the least flexible person ever and also dripping with sweat, but I left with an understanding of the fundamental positions (not to mention feeling extremely badass!) This is not a intro-level class but it is as basic or advanced as you need it to be. Bonus: the room is black so you can worry less about looking like a clumsy literal hot mess and instead focus on you and your practice, which why you came.
It is a luxury to be able to take the time to focus inward and block out the many thoughts running through our minds each day, but it is incredibly important that we make that time even if it is for five minutes each morning. Since starting my practice at Y7 and studying yoga closely I have noticed a complete positive shift in my mindset – I am conscious of my breath and use it daily to keep myself grounded and present, I have uncovered a mind-body connection that I did not know was possible and my flexibility has improved beyond my wildest expectations. It has taught me me that my body is an amazing force that can be challenged and stretched, but above all must be taken care of. For so long I associated yoga solely with white elitists of the Western world (a community that I did not belong to) but the welcoming nature of this studio feels safe and inclusive. Having a judgement-free zone to come to that fosters self care is invaluable to me and worth every penny. Thousands of dedicated clients around the country agree.
I urge everyone, particularly women of color, to try yoga at least once. I say at least once because it may take a few tries to find the teacher and style that works well for you. There are various styles of yoga that are offered so you can find your fit. You do not have to be thin, “in shape” or adorned in expensive workout gear – and if you feel that way going into a space, find a new community ASAP. While many classes carry a price tag, there are just as many donation-based classes out there for you to explore. Men and women alike can reap the benefits of yoga, so bring your boo. (Does your man think he’s too macho? Let him know Ace Hood and his partner do yoga too!)
My friends never hear me shut up about Classpass, so see if Y7 is available in your city. You can also try one month of Classpass to discover other yoga and fitness studios in your area. You will not regret it.