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Friday, July 1, 2016

Deep House Yoga Brings The Yogi Mindset to The Club

Posted By on Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 12:31 PM

click to enlarge SARAH PURKRABEK
  • Sarah Purkrabek
There’s a line to get into Public Works, our temple for the evening. I don’t mean that ironically — it’s just after 6 p.m., and this crowd is toting yoga mats and water bottles instead of energy drinks spiked with vodka.

We’re all waiting for Deep House Yoga SF, a San Francisco-born pop-up yoga event that partners with venues like Public Works and Love & Propaganda, to throw these almost-weekly yoga parties.

Jill McDonald and Julie Tran are the creative minds behind the idea — the two were each combining house music and yoga on their own before serendipitously meeting at McDonald’s first Deep House Yoga event in the city a year ago. The partnership clicked — both McDonald and Tran are certified yoga teachers, and McDonald is a DJ — and ever since, the duo has been working to bring the pop-up to different locations throughout the city, with greater and greater turnouts each time.

The tickets for tonight were $25 — not cheap, but still only about $10 more than you'd pay for a regular yoga class in the city. The guy next to me in line is wearing those yoga-pants-that-look-like-work-pants that I keep seeing on my Facebook newsfeed and talking about his acid trip at Lightning in a Bottle.

It’s only 6:30 p.m. — the yoga session doesn’t start until 7 — and the doors to the club aren’t even open yet, but already the sidewalk outside is full. This is one of the few events I’ve ever been to that people actually show up early for, and I wonder why.

click to enlarge 03f324d1-3ae5-4147-b8f2-500f9651ece3.jpg
When we finally start filing inside, it’s clear that, for most of my fellow yogis, this isn’t their first Deep House event. I’m third in line but I’m not quick like those behind me, and I end up in the third row back from the stage. We’re packed practically mat to mat on what’s usually the dance floor, just a few inches of space separating each of us from our neighbors to the left, right, front, and back. The bar is open for mocktails dubbed “healthy elixirs” with pun-intended names like “chakra charger” and “prana colada.”

It’s a little eerie to see a space that’s usually reserved for after-dark partying so still and peaceful. A few groups of friends talk among themselves on their mats, but otherwise the noise is limited to the sounds of warm-up stretching. Even though there are at least 100 people here, with my eyes closed, it could pass for a dozen or less.

We start the class in a seated position as Tran leads us in breathing exercises. A few beats later, the silence is replaced with the beginning beats of McDonald's set. The class has officially begun.

Tran tells us to circle our wrists and raise our arms in the air. “This is your body, your time,” she says. Under the blacklight, it’s hard to make out faces or analyze the moves of the other attendees. This, along with the thumping, trance-inducing music, makes the practice deeply personal. It feels like we’re a small group, and I forget that there are hordes of other bodies in here also moving through the same sequence of poses.

In this class, there’s even more room for interpretation than yoga usually allows for. Tran’s instructions are remixed versions of the traditional: “Sit your hips low into chair pose, utkatasana. Option to bob your head,” she smiles and nods along to the beat herself.

We’re given the head bobbing option a lot. We’re also given an “option to wiggle your butt,” a period of “dance-asana,” in which we simply groove to the music in the space of our mats, and full license to, basically, do whatever the fuck we want.

It’s pretty awesome.
click to enlarge WAYLAN CHOY
  • Waylan Choy
Even though the class is an hour long and keeps us in near constant motion, it goes by fast, a blur of head bobbing and vinyasa flows. The music is a big factor in this, pushing the minutes along easily. When we eventually sink into shavasana (corpse pose — every yoga class’s ending posture), we take the stillness seriously.

Afterwards, a good chunk of people stay to sip the (surprisingly satisfying) health drinks and mingle. In the background, McDonald keeps the deep house going on autopilot, and she and Tran make the rounds, asking everyone how they liked the evening. I learn that McDonald took this past year off her usual day job (footwear design) to work on this project. Now, it’s up and running even better than she could have imagined — with no plans for stopping anytime soon.

The next Deep House Yoga SF event happens July 8 at Berkeley Yoga Center.

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Sarah Purkrabek

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