Students lined up throughout the studio room of Sweat and Soul Yoga and prepared for their routine class. Instead of the traditional “om” chant, however, Snoop Dogg’s tunes fill the room.
“While it seems weird, what’s really cool about it is that the hip-hop music is really deep, and the beats are really strong and allow people to feel good,” said Lynn Begier, a yoga expert and and the founder of both Sweat and Soul Yoga and Back Bay Yoga Studio. “Sometimes people don’t get it because it’s really experiential. Then they take it. and they are like, ‘wow, there’s something really connecting and powerful to the class.’”
A number of Boston University students have said that this upbeat twist on yoga helps them enjoy the activity more.
“I always get bored because usually [studios] put up music that’s like chanting or something, and it’s fun to focus on something else and go back and forth or dance while you’re listening to Snoop Dogg,” said Rachel Franklin, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences.
For Begier, who first opened a yoga studio in Back Bay 11 years ago, there is nothing contradictory about yoga and hip-hop.
“When my life felt funky, I started doing my normal yoga practice to this [hip-hop] music,” she said. “On days I felt so depressed or bored, I would practice to everything from Madonna to Britney Spears’ greatest hits and I would feel so transformed.”
Begier said that very few people during her college days even knew about yoga and that she has noticed an increasing trend in the activity.
“Every gym has yoga now,” she said. “When I opened up Back Bay yoga which was my original studio, 11 years ago, we were really the only studio in Boston. Now a lot of people are doing yoga, and it is spread out and segmented, you don’t have to be in the go to do yoga.”
Yoga has now become become popular with Bostonians of all ages and professions.
“The people who come for yoga are either young students or older adults,” said Sabrina Garland, an instructor at All One Yoga, who teaches Vinyasa, power, restorative and sculpt yoga. “There isn’t a middle ground. People in their 50s are in the same classes as 19 year olds. The stress release yoga provides makes them feel youthful.”
Relax Your Muscles
Some students said that they turn to yoga as an alternative exercise even though it differs from traditional exercise.
Natalie Rizk, a graduate student in the College of Communication, said that yoga helps her focus.
“I finish [yoga] class, and then I’m able to focus on my work afterwards,” she said. “I have a lot of muscle problems from athletics in high school and so it’s really helpful and I feel like a new person after doing yoga.”
For some, yoga offers a break from their regular workouts.
“I like to run and do climbing, and yoga is kind of like a treat,” Franklin said. “It feels like a massage afterwards, especially because it’s so hot in there [Sweat and Soul Yoga]. I usually do yoga in the morning to wake me up.”
Athletes also use yoga as a way to get stronger and in better shape for their sports.
“I’m a huge runner and the running gets competitive,” said Cara Gilman, a yoga teaching assistant at Sweat and Soul Yoga. “I thought I needed to get stronger, stretch more and [do] all these things that yoga does.”
Gilman said that yoga goes beyond being just a workout.
“One of my teachers though really allowed me to get inside myself, that lets me feel my body, lets me connect to my emotions, lets my head ago,” she said. “Yoga, you just have space for yourself and that’s so special. It makes you more rounded. It really grounds me because it’s that emotional time and the reminder to breathe and just to be yourself.”
And Your Mind …
A spiritual discipline that traces it roots all the way back to ancient India, yoga is a popular way for students to relax.
“I sleep really well afterwards,” said Else Frohlich a junior in the College of Engineering. “It energizes me really well after a long day. It’s a way to unwind and not be bottled up and stressed. When you have less stress, you’re more focused.”
The popularity of yoga makes it more accessible for students interested in it. Besides the many yoga studios in the city, students have many options on campus as well.
The Fitness & Recreation Center at BU offers many different yoga classes, for credit and non-credit. Free yoga is offered weekly in Warren Towers, with mats for students to borrow for the class.
Sunrise yoga is offered weekly at 7:30 a.m. on the top floor of Stuvi II. Students can sign up for Sunrise yoga through Eventbrite.com.
The website describes the yoga as Pura Vida yoga, which is defined as “a full body experience involving Kripalu Yoga and music.”
A Social World
Begier said that yoga is all about connecting people.
“Students in Boston are really cerebral and spend a lot of time in their head,” she said. “They could really benefit from a juicy way to get moving in a healthy safe way, and it really connects people.”
She said today, social media connects people, but it is not the same emotionally.
“Everyone’s on Facebook and Twitter but it is disconnecting because you are not really interacting with people and hip-hop yoga has that vibe like being in a concert,” Begier said.
Begier attributed the increasing popularity of yoga to a number of factors, including the fast pace of social media and processed foods.
She said that the increasing trend of yoga could be a reaction to our fast-paced lives.
“The world’s getting faster, and in yoga, it’s about no matter what kind of yoga you do, it is about slowing down,” she said. “The Facebook feed is moving so quickly … It’s definitely adding a lot of stress to our mental well-being and to our digestive and organ health, where the food is being produced really quickly and things aren’t as homemade as they used to be, it’s a lot of store-bought food, which can add a toll.”
Yoga, then might be exactly what our bodies need, Begier said.
“Yoga on the whole is about slowing down,” Begier said. “That’s something that the nervous system always needs.”