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Hip hop yoga arrives in Toronto

Posted by Dayna Winter / January 25, 2011

Hip Hop YogaHip Hop Yoga lured Toronto yogis to the Thompson Hotel last Thursday night for upward dogs and upbeat tunes. The free event, hosted by lululemon, is just your typical Friday night for Calgary's yoga set. Its popularity is no surprise - the unlikely combo of heavy-hitting tracks and graceful poses is a match befitting an eHarmony success story. So I wonder, what took Toronto so long to catch on?

I apologized to my Thursday coffee date at the Thompson for my too-casual outfit, chosen purposely for my next appointment, just downstairs at the hotel. Soon after our lattes were sipped, scads of mat-toting 20 and 30-somethings would descend on the Wellington Ballroom for Toronto's inaugural Hip Hop Yoga class. My date was skeptical. Wasn't yoga practice designed for relaxation and personal reflection, she asked. I also questioned the pairing. Would I be able to find inner peace to a soundtrack of Drake and M.I.A.?

Hip Hop YogaWell, I didn't. But it had less to do with the music, supplied by DJ Fathom, than it did with the cramped quarters. Lululemon staffers encouraged participants to "scooch" mats closer and closer (and then closer still) to accommodate the overwhelming response. In the end, 150 people barely squeezed together with less than 6 inches between mats.

Hip Hop YogaI admit that my experience was somewhat soured after my mat (brought from home) was usurped by another yogi. It wasn't her fault, really. Finding space for 150 in a room that should safely only hold 50 did create some chaos and confusion (and a fire hazard). Actually, I (jokingly) blame Tony, my mat neighbour to the left, whose questionable loyalty left me homeless while I was snapping photos. I finished my practice wedged between the emergency exit and a load-bearing pillar with no view of the instructor - a serious downgrade from my stolen central spot, reserved well in advance of the class.

Hip Hop YogaAfter abandoning any hope for serenity, which by this point, I realized, was not the objective, I embraced the practice. Our instructor, Sara, had flown in from Alberta to lead the class. The poses, she explained, would be accompanied by "pulses". To the beat, of course. 90s tracks by Skee-Lo, Biggie and En Vogue (songs I actually knew!) had us singing along and I wished I had invited my Hip Hop Karaoke crew.

Executing warrior poses and certain stretches without popping my neighbour in the face was a challenge. But the live tunes lightened the mood, and no one seemed to care about the overlap. Unlike the usual imposed silence, the participants chatted and giggled throughout the hour. For anyone turned off by the seriousness of yoga, I would suggest this very social hybrid.

Hip Hop YogaWill Hip Hop Yoga return to our city? I sure hope so. In the meantime, I'll take advantage of lululemon's other community events, including monthly yoga at the Drake Hotel. I might just miss the bass, though.

Hip Hop YogaHip Hop YogaHip Hop Yoga



rob / January 25, 2011 at 09:43 am
God bless Lululemon and TNA pants...
Mr Stretchy / January 25, 2011 at 10:17 am
lululime / January 25, 2011 at 10:24 am
hahahaha so lame!!
Regina / January 25, 2011 at 10:59 am
This is wiggedy wiggedy wack.
Fabio / January 25, 2011 at 11:02 am
Dubstep would make more sense, I think.
steve-o / January 25, 2011 at 11:47 am

C,mon guys this is the newest'as called "hot" Yoga!
T / January 25, 2011 at 11:48 am
this goes against the whole philosphy of yoga in the first place...just because you're doing a warrior 1 or sun salutation pose doesn't necessarily mean it's yoga. True yoga is about stilling the mind and breath to unify mind-body connection..I would imagine that it would be a wee-bit hard to do that while 'Hynotize' is bumpin in the background.

Yoga, i think not.
qwerty replying to a comment from rob / January 25, 2011 at 11:53 am
Yoga that right!
Kenny / January 25, 2011 at 12:05 pm
"Yoga Fire!"

A relatively small room, jammed to the walls with hot/sweaty bewbs/ass, jiggling and contortioning into various positions and angles... :D
Bob / January 25, 2011 at 12:31 pm
This looks like the 2010's version of the infamous "20 minute workout"
Ratpick / January 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm
Let the yoga purists whine. Bring on the cranberry yogatinis, I say.
oni / January 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm
Check out all that diversity!
Eric26 / January 25, 2011 at 12:59 pm
I don't have white guilt but reading about stuff like this definitely gives me white shame.
Sarah / January 25, 2011 at 01:32 pm
ODD !! This is like drinking a glass of Dom. Romane Conti with Fried Chicken ........ A waste !!!
Marion Cobretti / January 25, 2011 at 01:51 pm
Calgary culture invades Toronto in the form of Hip Hop yoga. Next up, more tasteless chain restaurants!
lolaslounge replying to a comment from oni / January 25, 2011 at 01:52 pm
funny that
mike in parkdale / January 25, 2011 at 02:50 pm
the more I see mention of the Thompson Hotel in the media, the more I realize it's the hub of neo-yuppieism in this city.

has anyone seen the 'King West' magazine / condo catalog they put out? This would fit into that perfectly.

and totally agree with 'T'. I always thought that yoga was designed to prepare the body for meditation and breathing? This is like comparing Tae-Bo to Akido.
Regina replying to a comment from oni / January 25, 2011 at 04:42 pm
Whoa-oh, oh Mercer, Mercer, me!
lululame-o replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / January 25, 2011 at 06:28 pm
white chicks don't know the difference.
seriousl;y / January 25, 2011 at 07:33 pm
this is the gayest shit i've ever heard. real yoga-ist would be ashamed, and hip hop fans like myself are just reminded of how a few people hurting to make a quick buck will sell out the culture (or what's left of it). the marketing team at lulu lemon didnt really think of the other side of the coin - there's more people that you're gonna piss of by doing this than you're going to engage with your brand. way to turn OUR shit into a fucking fad.
bullring / January 25, 2011 at 07:45 pm
Are you allowed to do yoga if you are ugly? Anybody know?
Antony / January 25, 2011 at 09:17 pm
You may be allowed, but you have to put your mat at the back.
Flap Jack / January 25, 2011 at 10:22 pm
I'd let those funky girls taste my organic kielbasa.
James replying to a comment from Antony / January 25, 2011 at 10:56 pm
Best View is from the back!!!
Jordana / January 26, 2011 at 11:23 am
Every once in a while it's important to realize not to take everything so seriously, and my yoga practice has been a lot more fun since attending this event. I find myself smiling more during yoga classes now.

So excited for the next one...
Tricia / January 26, 2011 at 11:39 am
I am very interested in yoga especially like if it is a hiphop yoga. Unfortunately I wasn't able to participate this but in the future I hope I can.
mike in parkdale / January 26, 2011 at 02:19 pm
I'll wait for Dubstep Pilates™
French Quarter Self Storage / January 28, 2011 at 11:18 pm
Wow I think this is the largest crowd of yoga participants I've seen together in one place. Hip hop yoga must be really popular.
maria vecchio / January 31, 2011 at 11:44 am
Whaooo never seen soo many people practicing yoga at once and my daughter is the center of attention caught on camera love it !!
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