“Whether this is your first class or your five hundredth class, you belong here.” Kate, the yoga instructor at Y7 Yoga Studio in SoHo, may not have known how desperately I needed to hear those words. But when she said it toward the end of the class, my shift from nervous wreck to sweaty warrior became complete. I had spent the morning train ride to the studio berating myself for staying up late the night before and not taking the time to really get myself together.
Unlike the sleek, Lululemon’d masses in the waiting area, my hair was a frizzy mess. While I’ve taken classes with a variety of people, this was my first real class among the Beautiful People. I felt like the clumsy, painfully awkward Jessica of my youth, certainly not the intrepid journalist who just a few days prior felt confident that she could take on Y7’s We Flow Hard Vinyasa class, an hour-long hot yoga class done to a soundtrack of hip-hop and chill beats. Y7 is a phenomenon that in just more than two years has grown to include three studios in New York and, most recently, one in Los Angeles.
I lay on my mat in the dark, steamy room, the heat and flickering candlelight bringing me some sense of calm. Selena Gomez’s “Good for You” played, helping me chill out. The minute Kate gently called us to attention, it was as if a spell had been cast over the class. Several of us were new to Y7, and we were all in for a treat. I had chosen to take class in SoHo with Kate instead of trying the original Williamsburg studio or the Flatiron studio, a favorite of the Instagram fitness elite, because of her bio on the Y7 website. Like me, she’s a fan of hip-opening poses, particularly Pigeon pose, and uses yoga as a way to deal with anxiety and depression. I chose wisely. Kate welcomed newcomers to the class and told us to drink water and take a break when we needed to, and then she took us through an opening sequence, urging us to let go of whatever had been bogging us down before class began; magically, my nerves and anxiety lifted.
Kate knew how to bring a sense of lightheartedness to the challenging practice, pairing moves like Reverse Tabletop with a lion’s breath. In fact, she used different types of breath throughout the practice to expel excess tension and improve the overall movement. The room stayed dark throughout the class, which added to the chill vibe, and the unique format of the class, which Kate also explained before beginning, allowed me to connect to the music and my body.
The main portion of the class is made up of three flows. First, Kate taught us the flow, then we sped it up, connecting the movement to our breath, then — and this is the part that is both fun and tricky — we freestyled the flow, modifying and improvising as we saw fit. The flows were a bit complex; while Y7 welcomes yogis of all levels, it was very helpful for me to be familiar with basic moves such as Downward Facing Dog and sequences such as Warrior transitioning to Triangle and Sun Salutation.
Kate was attentive, coming over to correct my form on my Revolving Triangle, walking around the room to check on the large class and explaining each move clearly, but there were still some moments that could have tripped up someone with no prior yoga knowledge. Kate’s three flows were progressive in nature, which helped me remember each one when it came time for freestyle.
The music was always on point, with plenty of hip-hop punctuated with atmospheric electronica. I recognized James Blake’s lush sonic landscapes and deep, haunting voice. A series of twists were set to Tupac’s “Keep Ya Head Up,” leading to a moment of deep introspection and making me smile in the midst of a tough sequence. My favorite music moment, however, came during the final flow. We had already performed a flow that featured Chair pose, and when Kate announced called for Chair once again, I involuntarily sighed. “I hear an ‘ugh’ over there,” Kate said, and several of us laughed because, let’s be real, I may have been the big mouth, but I was not the only one whose core, thighs and booty were on fire at this point.
“You’re almost there,” she said, taking us through the final flow before cranking up “How Low” by Ludacris. Dear readers, if there is one song that will carry you through an intense series of Chair and balance poses, it’s that song. With sweat dripping down my face, my entire body soaked and my heart pounding, I got the surge of adrenaline I needed to not just get through the flow but to conquer it.
“You belong here.” Kate said it again as we all lay in Savasana, relaxing to an atmospheric instrumental track. I was drenched, both exhausted and exhilarated, and I knew she meant it. The music and movements had silenced my inner critic and erased the fear.
I wished I could take the class with me back to Delaware, even more so when I’ve received emails from Y7 touting this week’s special two-hour Mega Detox Workshop at SoHo and Los Angeles pop-up classes with themes like Throwback Jay-Z and Missy Elliot vs. Lil Kim.
No matter; I will find my way to that hot, candlelit room once again for another much-needed perspective shift and a damn good workout.