It’s the kind of thing that sounds like a punchline from the SNL sketch “The Californians,” but it’s real: there's actually a yoga class called Namasdrake, where participants do vinyasa flow yoga to Drake tunes in a bar in the Arts District.
The idea for the class came to yoga instructor Paul Schneider when he was taking his teacher training and learning about chakras. “We got to the sixth chakra, and we were talking about how it’s kind of the focal point for intuition and wisdom or even clairvoyance, if you believe in that kind of thing,” he says. “When I was going through my teacher training, the working title for Drake’s new album, Views, was called Views From the 6, so I thought of that pun as the theme for a yoga class, like “Views From the Sixth Chakra,” because a lot of teachers will theme a class around a chakra.”
Schneider, who always practiced yoga to Drake to begin with, describes his songs as “the perfect music to flow to,” because the rapper/singer’s discography is varied. “He’s such a diverse artist, he can go from really gentle, soft, soundscape-y kinds of songs, where he’s just singing lightly, and then he has really hard rap songs, they’re almost like trap songs,” he says. “There’s an arc to every vinyasa class. It starts out very lightly, in child’s pose, you come into your breath, so you can use one of his softer songs for that, and then just build up from there, and there are so many songs to choose from.”
For now, Namasdrake meets monthly (and sells out very quickly), but Schneider and his business partner T.J. Petracca hope to expand their offerings. On October 16, he's leading a NamasYe class (themed around Kanye), and October 30 will see a Halloween-themed glow yoga in the dark. In addition to Kanye and Drake, Schneider wants to lead classes themed around other hip-hop and pop artists. “I love that style of music, and I think it is a big draw,” he says. “I think people like me, who listen to metal, [or] indie are also going to be into Drake or Lil Wayne, stuff like that. There's other people who just love pop, so it's this common ground that everyone can find and come and have fun.”
Schneider is purposely straddling the line between silly and serious. “Making yoga feel like a party, making an exercise routine feel like a party, that's the whole idea.” But, he says, “It's a very serious yoga class; it's not an easy class. I'm cuing postures that are cued in very advanced classes … In no way do I take yoga lightly, and in no way do I take hip-hop lightly either. They're both very serious things to me, but I just want people to come in and enjoy both of those things.”
The class is intended for all levels, and it’s a welcoming space, even if you’re a total neophyte at yoga. It’s a warm environment, both figuratively and literally (though Schneider says that Resident, the bar where the class is held, is a better fit than the roof at the Ace Hotel, where they held the first class. “Yoga in the sun sounds like a great idea, until you do it,” he says). He offers variations on some of the more difficult poses, like the class’ coup de grace, a hybrid between a side plank and tree. Students are free to practice the move (or go into child’s pose or take a Snapchat selfie using one of the Namasdrake geofilters) during a Nicki Minaj tune. As Schneider puts it, “You’ll have the duration of ‘Truffle Butter’ to play around with this.”
It’s a strange inversion of the typical atmosphere when Drake comes on at the club. Though the students are sticking their butts up in the air while Lil Wayne raps, “She became a vacuum, put it on my dick like a carpet,” and the guys running the class watch, it’s not as objectifying as you’d expect. The students and teacher are all so focused on the yoga aspect that the class is not a sexualized environment.
During the class, Schneider wants students to focus on staying in touch with their breathing. The Drake tunes help with that, though occasionally the song's tempo doesn’t quite match the breathing tempo. When the two sync up, though, it’s easy to lose yourself in the music, to quote another famous rapper.
After completing some flows, a couple standing series, and a core workout, the class winds down with a cool-down stretch to a soft piano version of “Hotline Bling.” Schneider ends the session by telling the class, “In yoga, we say ‘Namaste,’ which means, ‘The light and teacher in me sees and honors the light and teacher in you. When I am in that place in me, and you are in that place in you, we are one.' But in Drake yoga, we say ‘Namasdrake,' which means, ‘The lit-ness and the Drizzy in me sees and honors the lit-ness and the Drizzy in you. When I am in that Drake in me, and you are in that Drake in you, we are one.’”
Resident, 428 S. Hewitt St., Arts District; Sun., Oct. 23; $23. facebook.com/namasdrake.