The Brains Behind the Bold Studio that Pairs Yoga with Hip-Hop
Y7 Studio, which Sarah Larson Levey co-founded with her husband Mason, has become a can't-miss experience on the studio circuit in New York City and LA. And you can forget about meditation bowls and chanting. Instead, Levey sufficiently shook up the yoga community when she she decided that yoga at Y7 would be exclusively taught to the soundtrack of hip hop music.
The moment you walk into any Y7 location, of which there are now 8, nerves will be quickly dispelled by the cheeky lyrics that emblazon the walls and waiting areas. Then in the dark rooms of Y7, accomplished teachers invite yoga newbies and aficionados alike to let go of any remaining fear and insecurity and simply move, breathe, and groove to the chest-thumping beats of the music.
"No one can see or judge you," Levey says to encourage anyone to attend a class at Y7. "Do what you can and know that it is called a yoga 'practice' for a reason. It takes time, so be gentle with yourself."
With that kind of open hearted mantra paired with such an unexpected vibe, we simply had to know more.
Tell us about your own fitness transformation and how long it took? We read that you once only walked on the treadmill twice a week and did some weights!
[Laughs] It’s true! I literally did nothing and hated hated working out. I was skinny, but had absolutely no muscle and was not toned at all. It took me about 2 years to feel strong and confident with my level of fitness.
What type of person or personality have you found really benefits by practicing at Y7?
People who are always on the move. At Y7 we have created a space where you are still able to get the incredible benefits of asana and dharma but have the freedom to make that movement your own.
Describe the type of community you’ve established with Y7?
Badass. I love our clients, staff, and instructors. I have met so many talented, creative, and wonderful people through our community. When you walk through the doors of any Y7 location you can feel the positive energy of the people around you. And the best part is whatever anyone’s personal fitness goals may be, everyone has one thing in common — they came here for themselves.
Does having hip hop music improve/negate the original purpose of yoga?
We definitely get our fair share of criticism about this. But here is the thing... the purpose of yoga is not to perfect the pose, it’s not enlightenment, it’s not being a this pedestal image of a person who mediates everyday, eats vegan and composts (those are all amazing things, by the way, and I applaud all of those who do).
Life is different for everyone and yoga is about achieving optimal physical, spiritual, and mental well being for you. And for me, that includes working out to my favorite music which happens to be hip-hop... I am forever thankful that others feel the same.
Y7 took off pretty quickly, how did you manage the exponential growth from pop-up to studio?
Honestly, I have no idea. We didn’t think about it, we just did it. During the first two years of Y7, Mason and I were getting up at 6am to each open a location, going to our 9-to-5 jobs, then each going to a studio to close. I have no idea how we didn’t drop dead from exhaustion, but when you are passionate about something it doesn’t matter. You don’t stop you, just do.
What’s one piece of advice you have for an entrepreneur in the fitness arena?
Understand that you are in the service business. We strive to provide an incredible client experience from the moment you walk in the door. That means, making sure you are always greeted with a smile and the classes are a quality you can rely on no matter the time of day or location. Respond in kindness no matter what gets thrown at you.
Finally, we love that you and your husband Mason started Y7 together. What would you tell other couples that are thinking of getting into business together?
Thank you! It is the hardest thing I have done. You have to know when to be a spouse or be a co-worker, and it’s so tough to make that mental switch sometimes. I would say that you really have to love and respect each other and give your partner space when they need it.
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By Caitlin M. Ryan