beat flex to the
Florence Derrick finds an unusual exercise class that combines yoga with classic disco beats
In my first year of university, I started practising Iyengar Yoga. I was looking for exercise classes at student prices and this one took place next door to my halls. What I did not know beforehand was that Iyengar obsessively focuses on precision of posture and alignment. Our teacher was something of a dragon too.
Far from easing us through the poses in soothing tones, she was the type to hoick you into a shoulder stand by the ankles and raise a judgemental eyebrow at any girl whose hips she deemed suspiciously flexible.
Nevertheless, we all graduated not just with academic degrees, but a rock-solid yoga technique and thicker skin.
I thought of that teacher when I found myself in a basement bar on a rainy Tuesday evening straight after work, patting gold glitter and diamantes onto my face.
This was not Iyengar and, happily, our breezy and sequined Canadian tutor Sarah Hunt did not raise her voice at us once during the hour-long Disco Yoga class at Trapeze in Shoreditch.
Around 30 of us (all newcomers) grabbed a mat as Sarah’s business partner DJ Darlo took to the decks and started spinning the likes of Sister Sledge, Diana Ross and Chic. Wall-to-wall epic tunes.
The class started with a relaxation and stretch, before launching straight into Vinyasa Flow with a funky twist. Sarah encouraged us to flick our hair from side to side while planking, click our fingers during warrior poses, and arm roll and clap our hands through sun salutations.
As I swung my hips with abandon, mid-downward dog, my thoughts turned to the one instruction hammered home by my university tutor – the importance of performing postures correctly to avoid injury.
But as the Bee Gees came on and we progressed into warrior II combined with the classic Staying
Alive dance moves, I realised I had not stopped grinning since the class started and decided then and there to stop worrying about my technique.
“Dance party,” cried Sarah, as DJ Darlo hit a button that flooded the air with a cloud of confetti and we all freestyled for a couple of minutes.
Maybe I was just a bit too British for the situation, but an enforced boogie within my designated mat space felt a little cringeworthy. But then my jam came on – And
The Beat Goes On by The Whispers – and I might as well have been five wines down on a Friday night.
Laughing and at last feeling fully at ease, the class settled into the final relaxation session, lying flat on our backs to soulful 1970s ballads.
We slowly opened our eyes to the sight of cocktails being lined up for us at the bar – coconut margaritas and blueberrry mojitos all round.
“I’ve been a yoga teacher for 10 years,” Sarah told me as we unwound after the class.
“I always wanted to do something different, so I started playing more upbeat music in my yoga classes and in 2014 I started a small class in east London just for my friends.
“I was playing Spotify from my phone and a disco song came on by random.
“All my friends loved it and were, like, keep them coming. The next class I asked if they had any requests and they all said: ‘Disco’. It went from there.
“In 2016 my friend Rosie (DJ Darlo) contacted me and said, do you want to do this bigger and better?”
The two of them brought disco yoga to festivals, hen-dos and corporate events, adding glitter and disco balls to make the whole thing more of an experience.
“Generally people just come once, for birthdays or as presents for each other,” she said.
It is also a gateway to encourage newbies to get into more serious forms of the discipline.
“A lot of people are scared away from normal yoga,” said Sarah. “They say ‘I’m not zen enough,’ or they’re put off that it’s so slow.
“I was one of those people originally, who said it’s too quiet for me. It’s because their minds are not used to being quiet. Those are the people that need it the most. But this is a bit more easygoing.
“So when we do our relaxation at the beginning and end, often people come up to me who have been reluctant to try still yoga and say: ‘You know what? This made me realise how busy my mind is, so maybe I do need to try yoga after all.’”
I doubt my strict university teacher would approve of Disco Yoga, but as I left smeared in glitter, slightly light-headed from the margarita and still humming Nile Rodgers, I thought – sod it. Life, including yoga, isn’t always to be taken seriously.
Sod it. Life, including Yoga, isn’t always to be taken seriously Florence Derrick