If you haven’t heard of Y7 (aka “the original hip hop yoga studio”), you’ve been missing out. Y7 is like no other hot yoga studio. First of all, it’s vinyasa flow vs. bikram (a 90-minute series of 26 postures in a steamy 105 degree room), which is what most people instinctively think of when they hear hot yoga. Y7 is different. And by that, I mean better. Prepare to work it out, sweat it out and zen it out for 60 minutes in a dark, candlelit, 80-90 degree room that’s heated with health-boosting infrared. Don’t worry you won’t miss the extra 15 degrees and you will for sure SWEAT! A single class will set you back $25—not including a $2 mat rental and $3 skidless towel rental, which is an absolute must, unless you like the idea of sliding clear off your mat, which will be drenched with your sweat. And it’s totally worth it.
Get pumped for 60 minutes of sweaty vinyasa flow, known at Y7 as WeFlowHardTM Vinyasa, with some dope music. Here’s how it works: First, the instructor took us through a few warms ups, e.g., cat/cows. Then, she lead us through a series of postures—first on our right side, then our left. Next, we repeated the series, but this time it was one breath for one movement. The third time through the sequence, it was our turn to flow on our own. She turned up the music and we just went for it. This repeated a total of three times—with each sequence increasing in length and difficulty. After we’d completed our last flow, our instructor took us through few more postures—fondly referred to as the last push—before we cooled down with some stretches and then Savasana.
For anyone who thinks they don’t like hot yoga, we dare you to go to Beth Cooke’s “Hip Hop Wednesday” class and not leave a convert. She just freakin’ gets it. Her energy is uplifting, empowering and legit contagious. She encourages rather than pushes. And her music is always on point! Expect to shake out all your tension and anxiety as you move through carefully crafted sequences that are truly a thing of beauty. She’s also been known to begin and/or end her class by reading an inspiring poem or quote—helping your mind, body and spirit find harmony. The bottom line: Beth is amazing and everyone loves her, which means her classes fill up lightning fast. So do yourself a favor and book a week early.
When you walk up the stairs (c’mon, it’s only two flights) into the Union Square studio, you’ll notice that the space is pretty open. To your left, there’s the door to the practice room, a small seating area, and the check-in desk. Past that is a station to freshen up and charge your phone as well as two changing rooms. To the right are racks of Y7 merch (think: “a sweat called tribe” hats, sports bras and muscle tanks) and a single restroom. In the back, there’s a room to drop your stuff, hang your coat and grab a mat. There aren’t any showers, which is kind of a bummer after a sweaty session, but they have some pre/post-class products (a saving grace for your hair and skin), like Thayers Toner, Simple Makeup Removing Wipes, hair elastics and bobby pins. Plus, they’re stocked with plastic bags. So at least you can change and pack up your sweat-drenched clothes before heading out.
58 East 11th St, New York, NY 10003 Union Square Yoga $$$
Y7 Studio Union Square
Union Square Yoga, $$$
58 East 11th St, New York, NY 10003
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Stephanie is a dream, and we mean that quite literally. She’s the type of yoga instructor you dream about—leading you through class with her soothing, steady voice. Over the course of 60 minutes, she spoke of individuality, owning our body and our own self in practice and in life. The intensity of the physical sequences was perfectly balanced by her calm demeanor. The way she encouraged us was uplifting—like she knew we could do it all along—rather than drill sergeant-esque (hey, we’ve all had those teachers). And then there was savasana, the final resting pose. After a seriously sweaty session, such relaxation was more than welcome, but what made this one arguably the best ever was when Stephanie walked around the room fanning each yogi with a towel infused with peppermint essential oil.
One word: Awesome. Alex’s class has everything you love about Y7. At the beginning of class, she encouraged us to set an intention. Throughout our practice, she emphasized the importance of breath, reminding us to to “take a deep belly breath in” and “reconnect with our breath”. Her sequences made sense—each flow set us up to go deeper in the next one. More practiced yogis might call this “intuitive”. She encouraged and applauded self adjustments. Class closed with a few moments to finish our practice in a way that served our body, and a short but sweet Savasana.
If you’re looking for precision and explicit instruction, then Amy Apgar’s class is for you. Throughout each of the three sequences, Amy spoke of alignment—and not in the rigid way some teachers do. She did it in a direct, simple manner, mentioning specific angles and instructing us to keep our heels under our knees in Warrior II. At Y7, instructors are referred to as artists, and Amy definitely fits that description. Her sequences were perfectly choreographed and took our practice to new and more graceful heights. It was 60 minutes of poetry – albeit extremely sweaty poetry – in motion.
Courtney’s style is to teach a more conventional flow at a lightning fast pace. Because we moved through the sequences so quickly, Courtney’s class felt more like a cardio workout than a yoga practice. Despite her rigorous style, she was incredibly encouraging throughout the entire class. When we felt like we couldn’t do one more arm balance, she hit us with a minute long plank to the tune of some gangster rap. Her class leans more hip hop than yoga, which is a cool change of pace in the hot Y7 heat.
Faye’s Slow Burn class is exactly what the body needs on a cold winter night: it’s hot, soothing and serene. She started practice with a two-minute meditation to set a peaceful tone before moving into slow-paced flow. Different than traditional Y7 classes, Slow Burn is completely instructional and straightforward. Faye’s calming and confident voice guides you through a relatively basic practice that skews to the easier side, though she encourages creativity and free form in every pose. She played slower hits from Drake, Beyonce and Bieber, all of which we hadn’t heard before (and that we immediately downloaded onto our Spotify). Faye ended her class by placing a large candle in front of each attendee and asking us to recount our intention while blowing out the flame. Of all the unique yoga classes we’ve taken across the world, this was the first time we’ve experienced something so thoughtful. Faye’s Slow Burn will have you sweating, but it’s definitely manageable after a long work day. We would recommend it to unwind, refocus and reflect.
Jenna is positively perfect. Her upbeat and encouraging energy is just what the mind and body needs after a long weekend … and even a hangover. Jenna really reads the room and we noticed when she tweaked the flow to fit the skillset and needs of the class. Her cheerleader attitude pushed us to do one more chaturanga and hold the crow a few seconds longer, even when these poses were optional. Oh and the throwback Andre 3000 beats had us dancing on our mats.
If fitness is your goal and you’re more drawn to the asana (aka the physical postures) part of your practice, Kate is the teacher for you. She integrated conditioning elements into her 60-minute flow. Think: Mālāsana squats and crunches in boat pose. Throughout class—particularly when things got tough and we got tired—she encouraged us to dig deep and push through. If you’ve never taken Kate’s class, expect 60 minutes of dynamic, challenging sequences that will strengthen your practice and your muscles.
Kendra. Kicks. Ass. Truth. Kendra’s Sunday hip hop class had us sweating so hard it looked like we went for a swim. Though she keeps with the Y7 method of cycling through yoga sequences three times – the first one a slow burn, the second fast-paced (one breath per movement), and the last on your own – her sequences were so challenging that by the third cycle we face-planted on our mats, panting. Kendra took standard yoga flows and made tweaks for that extra fitness fix. Plank, boat and chair poses were all modified with longer holds and more movement and we’re still feeling the burn days later. Take Kendra’s class for a serious workout and don’t make any plans after other than with the shower.
Kristen was all about non-traditional sequences, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s kind of awesome! If you’re new to Y7, you’ll know as much as everyone else, and if you’re a regular, it’ll give you a chance to try something new and really challenge yourself. Don’t get us wrong, the regular flows are dope (otherwise why would keep going back?), but there’s something super cool about changing it up every once and awhile. If you’re in the mood for some new and different flows that are still totally Y7-worthy, sign up for Kristen’s class.
If you’re a hardcore fitness fanatic who’d pick Barry’s Bootcamp over Barre3 and certainly over yoga, then this action-packed class is for you. The vibe was more “give it 110%” than “find your center”. After our intense third flow, Sam instructed the front and back rows to face each other for boat pose and called out, “When you feel like giving up, look up at the person across from you and keep going”. While we may have signed up for vinyasa flow, what we got was a total body workout with a side of crow pose, and we liked it.