When Laura booked me in for a Y7 Yoga class while in New York, I had no idea what to expect…
I’ve never been much into yoga… while I might exercise five or six times a week, I tend to like my work outs to be more vigorous and steamy than slow and stretchy.
Then of course, there are the yoga zealots. We all know one or two, impossibly skinny people with long, sinewy arms who bang on about how good it is for you and how they’ve never been more flexible. And don’t get me started on the fake Asian mysticism that seems to follow it around. How can you take a fitness class that ends with someone bowing their head, clasping their hands together and saying “namaste” seriously?
I have tried to like it… really. Laura is definitely a convert and organises a monthly three-hour session in Leeds – yes, that’s three hours of yoga. One after the other. On a Sunday morning. I could almost run a marathon in the same time.
Nonetheless, being the good husband, I wanted to give her my support so when she told me she’d booked an instructor to run their first gig at Leeds’ Yoga Space earlier this summer, I was keen to give it a go.
I actually didn’t mind the first hour’s vinyasa flow, and the second biy of ‘yin yoga’ wasn’t too bad for a slower, more controlled version… But when it got to the ‘yogic sleep’ bit at the end and I was being told to relax my tongue bit by bit, I just had visions in my mind of opening my eyes and seeing the instructor filing her nails and stifling a bored yawn as she read from a script – a little like my cousin who used to do the ironing while talking dirty to blokes on a sex chat line to make a bit of extra cash while doing the housework…
Fast forward to a week ago and we were on a New York-bound plane for a child-free short break and got chatting to a young American girl next to us who happened to be a yoga instructor in New Jersey.
Laura, having come back from LA last year raving about Soul Cycle – the big-beat spinning class – was keen to know what was new on the New York fitness scene and our new pal Taylor began to rave about Y7 and how great it was.
The classes were around two years old, she told us, adding that it had gone from strength to strength and quickly rising from a single studio to five dedicated spaces in NYC and another in Hollywood.
So what made it so different?
“Well, first it’s done in the dark, well candlelight, so people can’t really see you screw up. Second, it’s like super-hot, so you’ll be drenched at the end. Third, it’s done to hip-hop, so it’s faster than normal yoga. It’s the Soul Cycle of yoga,” Taylor promised.
Those last four words had Laura sold – but at $25 a class, I needed a little more convincing.
Yes, savour that for a minute…. $25 a class, thanks to the pound’s post-referendum slump, that’s about £20 for an hour-long fitness session.
I mean, I know it’s New York, but even when I worked in London, I couldn’t command more than a tenner for a group exercise class, so double that seemed super expensive. (Those of you who come to my Leeds Insanity Live! classes, please note what a bargain you’re getting!).
The website looked pretty cool though – all slick black and white images and funky phrasing, and how can you resist this recommendation from 50 Cent?
It was hot, and they had like the candles and sh*t, the heat and sh*t. I must have thought I was just gonna do a couple stretches!
And so, the next day we were walking through the Flatiron District, arriving to a door emblazoned with the logo and some impossibly steep steps up three stories emblazoned at the top with the legend
Started from the bottom, now you’re here
In the reception are, we were greeted and kitted out with mats, hand towels and ‘anti-slip towels’. “You’ll need these to keep your grip and mop up the sweat.” the receptionist warned as she checked us in.
Now it was cold outside, freezing and rainy in fact, and I’d dressed in running tights, shorts, long sleeve T-shirt, T-shirt and running jacket. Laura was similarly done up with a couple of extras: namely my British Spartathlon Team buffs to keep her neck warm.
From the studio, around 25 people from the previous class came out – mostly women looking like they’d walked off the set of the TV series Girls (but without Lena Dunham in tow) alongside a couple of token blokes. All were absolutely piss wet, dripping with sweat and steam.
Laura and I looked at each other and went to bathroom, stripping down our kits to the mere basics.
Inside the studio, it took a while to adjust to the darkness. All the windows were blacked out and in the candlelight, I could just make out another stencilled slogan on the wall: “A tribe called sweat”. Judging by the state of the previous class, they weren’t joking.
We found one of the back corners to hide away in. We were both carrying colds, stinking red wine hangovers and a roll of loo paper nicked from our hotel room. In seconds we were leaking from almost every pore and orifice… and that was before the class even started.
Instructor Danielle Kipnis came in and made a start on the ‘warm up’ – and there was me thinking just entering the room provided that.
The yoga is really, I suppose, just a slightly faster version of the vinyasa flow I’d tried before, and although I’d been hoping the hip hop would be more NWA-style rage than the laidback R&B of the like of The Weeknd, it was bloody hard work trying to keep up.
I won’t pretend to be able to describe all the moves involved – although I know some of the basics like child’s pose, downward dog and warrior pose – and these were put together in ever increasing combos of difficulty. Danielle really wasn’t demoing many of the moves – I guess they expect people to have a smattering of knowledge. I just looked at the nearest extra from Girls and tried to follow suit.
A massive plus for me was that as long as you were there or thereabouts, Danielle wasn’t being prissy on form, trying to turn your hand this way or that just to make you feel as though you are being corrected.
Within seconds, we looked more like dripping dog than downward ones, and our towels were in constant use to try and mop up the increasingly large amounts of sweat gathering everywhere – as well as using it as an excuse to sneak in the odd breather here and there (see I do learn something from you guys who come to Insanity too).
The moves and combinations got progressively more complex the longer the class went on and while copying the class works for large chunks of the 60 minutes, there were sections where Danielle encouraged us to ‘find our own vinyasas’ from the moves offered and practice them… Given I didn’t even know I had a vinyasa to lose, this left us both a little confused. The regulars could remember the combos but Laura and I were largely making it up as we went along. Lord knows what they all felt.
It’s hard to judge a fitness class in just one session – I always try and encourage people to come back to my classes for a second or third time, just because familiarity with the moves breeds confidence. But on the whole, I really enjoyed it: the atmosphere was great, the heat certainly did it’s job and the music was a welcome change from those bleeding Andean/Tibetan pan pipes that seem to get dragged out at every yoga class in the world.
What sealed it for me as a great workout though was seeing the skinny chick to my left balance on two hands with both feet perfectly placed about six inches off the ground and hold that pose for a good 30 seconds without a millimetre of wobble.
If that’s where Y7 can get you, I want to go back.