Downward Facing Dance: Deep House Yoga Is Coming to Los Angeles

A Deep House Yoga class in San Francisco
A Deep House Yoga class in San Francisco
Waylan Choy

When you think of deep house beats, sweat and dancing, you probably think about a night out clubbing. And you’d be right … most of the time.

The nights you’d miss the mark are the nights that Julie Tran and Jill McDonald are hosting Deep House Yoga, a San Francisco-based event that’s grown to sell out club spaces and yoga studios alike over the past two years. Tran, an L.A. native who’s been a yoga teacher for five years, and McDonald, an Irish yogi who’s been practicing and teaching for over a decade, created an event that combined three of their favorite things: an underground scene, electronic music (McDonald is also a DJ), and mindful, go-at-your-own-pace yoga.

Go at your own pace means moving with your breathing, but it doesn’t mean easy; these classes can be pretty hard, and you will break a sweat. But you’ll do it playfully — this isn’t the place to enforce stiff definitions of what yoga should look like. Instead, it’s a place where bouncing to the beat while in chair pose is encouraged, and “dance-asana” is a legitimate posture to take. Afterwards, people talk, connect and meet new friends over juice-based mocktails and a happy endorphin afterglow.

On Oct. 6, Tran and McDonald are bringing the party to L.A. Though technically, this isn’t the first time the city has experienced the duo’s particular flavor of yoga.

“Back in 2013, I got the opportunity to teach yoga in a warehouse in Redondo Beach,” explains Tran. “I love ambient house music, so I’d always play a mix of that and deep or tropical house during my classes, and afterwards I’d host a healthy social hour for people to get to know one another.”

After doing her Redondo Beach classes for about a year-and-a-half, Tran moved to San Francisco, where she discovered that she wasn't the only yoga teacher livening up her classes with house music. “A mutual friend invited me to a Deep House Yoga SF event after I’d been living in the city for about six months,” recalls Tran. “Jill was running it. I thought, wow, this is so fucking rad! And, like, she beat me to it, but we have to meet.”

As it turns out, McDonald had been creating her own version of Deep House Yoga in parallel with Tran. She’s practiced yoga all over the world, and she took up DJing a couple years ago after getting involved in the underground music scene in San Francisco.

McDonald DJs while Tran teaches a Deep House Yoga class at Public Works in San Francisco.EXPAND
McDonald DJs while Tran teaches a Deep House Yoga class at Public Works in San Francisco.
Waylan Choy

“The owner of one of the yoga studios I taught at actually gave me the idea," McDonald explains. "She said, why don’t you bring those two things — your love of electronic music and yoga — together. It was a way to make yoga less snobby and more light and fun.”

After her first class with McDonald, Tran introduced herself, and the two gelled instantly. They realized they had a similar vision for these club-like yoga events, and that they could make a really powerful team: Tran teaching the class, McDonald DJing for it.

Almost immediately, they were officially in business. Their first jointly managed event was a success, and they soon expanded to other parts of the Bay Area including Oakland, Berkeley and Los Gatos. At one of their most recent events — which sold out, as most tend to do — they had 105 people in a room at Los Gatos’ YogaSource studio.

“We’ve even partnered with Gina Turner, the DJ and yogi who co-founded the Divine Movement and runs yoga classes at clubs before the shows start all over the country,” says Tran.

Though the combination of deep house music and yoga has become more of a trend since Tran and McDonald's first event, the women haven’t had to worry too much about the competition. That’s because they’ve got a formula that not many others have.

“I DJ at a lot of clubs, and I understand music and how to feel out the vibe of the crowd. I also understand yoga,” explains McDonald. “So I can tell how the class is feeling and predict where I need to go next with the music.” The result is a much more seamless experience than you might get from a house music and yoga event where the DJ is hired on just for the night.

“We’re just really in sync,” echoes Tran. “We never talk about the flow or what postures I’m thinking of adding into it beforehand.”

Upcoming Events

Usually, Tran teaches the classes and McDonald plays a live DJ set to match, but the ladies also try to bring in outside instructors and DJs to mix up their events.

“We pick people who are already in the Deep House Yoga community, so they’re familiar with how these types of classes work,” explains McDonald. “I’ll give the DJs a little bit of guidance and Julie will talk with the yoga instructors, but usually they take to the event well, since they’ve been a student here before.”

Though McDonald and Tran will be “headlining” their first L.A. event together, a rotating lineup is necessary to keep any club night fresh. Because really, this is still a club night. Yes, a healthy and substance-free club night, but the idea is the same: a space in the evening where you can decompress from work, socialize with your peers, and dance a little to some great music.

“This isn’t meant to be an everyday yoga class,” says McDonald. “It’s more like a celebration.”

Deep House Yoga L.A. is taking place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 6 at the Undercurrent Collective in DTLA. Tickets are available for pre-order online here ($20), or for $25 at the door. More info.


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