Here’s what happened when a very lethargic fitness writer, Chloe Gray, tried vinyasa flows to immersive music.
Every time I take time off of work I assume that I will return as a New Chloe. Energised Chloe, Inspired Chloe, able to work 12-hours a day after letting go of stress and catching up on sleep Chloe. And yet I know that when I actually come back to my desk, I am a less productive worker than before.
Yes, my mindset is way more positive post-holiday, but my body struggles to cope with the idea of productivity, and it expresses confusion at the lack of day drinking and chips in the form of exhaustion and sadness.
After taking last week off, this week’s return to real life has been no different. I’ve been crashing at 2PM and, while I told myself I’d jump straight back into my gym routine, two days of training wiped me out like never before. So, come Tuesday morning, I turned my 6AM alarm off, skipped my workout and instead drank coffee after coffee to try and dull the fact that I now had to work.
On Tuesday’s I was due to try out a new yoga class. I love getting to experiment with different classes and training approaches, but, on that morning, it simply felt like another thing to do that wasn’t sleeping.
Usually, I do yoga because I know that it’s good for me, but I don’t love the practice. I spend no more than 20 minutes on the mat and, ultimately, the session is more for my body than my brain. So when I walked into the class with Keri Perkins, founder of We Are Boogie Sound, all I was expecting was a nice stretch to counteract the fact that I hadn’t moved all day. Little did I know that it was going to be the antidote to my lethargy.
We practised in a yoga studio at The Ned’s Club, London, with beautifully relaxing natural stone walls and strategically placed mirrors. But these things were by no means the most eye-catching elements of the room. Instead, it was the drums, music decks and musician, Sekrit, set up in the corner, ready for live music to play as we practised.
Although music is absolutely crucial to my strength training, and I can’t run without a 160BPM playlist, I’ve naively never considered how important music is to yoga before. But it’s a huge element to We Are Boogie Sounds. Keri believes that movement and music are intrinsically interlinked: both are about union, connection and healing.
“Yoga and music have incredible effects on the brain and the nervous system,” says Keri. “Both can be a form of meditation, calming the mind and quietening down the pre-frontal cortex that is responsible for our critical self, so we become more intuitive and creative.” But it’s more than just the tune selection that Keri is interested in, it’s how it vibrates through us.
“We are vibrational and everything is vibration. Think about the theory of the big bang: vibration and sound is the beginning of everything and quantum physics unravels this reality that everything makes a unique sound whether a human can hear it or not. Modern medicine is now using this to help heal, for example sound vibration is beginning to be used to break up benign tumours and the cosmetic industry is already using sounds vibrations to stimulate collagen production,” she says. This forms the basis of her practice: if the world around us makes noise and pulsates, why shouldn’t we?
I can very much get on board with this type of yoga. As a fidgeter, I often find that in traditional yoga classes, I struggle to deal with the silence and the expectation (whether internal or external) of perfection. Here, I feel like anything goes.
The vibrations begin with Keri’s opening chant. I’m not that spiritual, but her ‘Om’ is probably one of the most powerful sounds I’ve heard in practice before. I later find out that it is because this sound vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature. The purpose of it is to ground us – and it does, almost viscerally.
As we move through the sun salutations my movements feel so fluid it’s as though I’m pushing through water. I have no doubt that this comes from the continuous vibration of the live music. The natural inclusion of steel drums during powerful movements and the pullback to ambient sounds when it’s time to collapse into relaxation, does really impact the way your body moves. And if that type of music doesn’t sound like you’re kind of thing, Keri also teaches to electronic, soul, disco, hip hop and classical music.
“We generally only think about yoga as asana or postures, but music is universal and means that people who don’t think yoga is for them, for whatever reason, are more likely to give it a go,” explains Keri. This is exactly how she got into yoga herself, after being dragged to a class at a music festival and realising the effect that the collaboration can have. “However classes are not simply about slapping on a playlist. It’s about working with people and sounds that understand the yoga journey and what we want to achieve in a yoga class and the movement of the body, breath and sound.”
The class ends with a final ‘Om’, and Keri asks how we feel. I realise that it’s the most awake I have felt in days, yet it’s not the alertness I get from coffee or cardio. It’s a slow, relaxed, sustainable energy. The rest of the day feels easier, sure, but it’s the next day that I really notice the impact of my practice. After four days of lethargy, I am practically bouncing around my house. My friends notice the difference in my attitude, even via text and my housemates praise myself for getting out of my post-holiday funk. But I don’t think the change has just come from me: it’s as though I have been able to connect to (dare I say it) the earth, getting out of my head and sourcing energy from something bigger than me.
Luckily, I can continue this practice at home. Keri’s Spotify playlist is available from her website and has a few YouTube videos that are really accessible. And if you feel intimadated by the thought of a holistic, pulsating class, Keri recommends starting with a simple meditation at home. “The foundation to meditation is breath, so if you’d like to meditate but you feel like sitting in silence freaks you out, try adding ambient music and just breathing in for four and out for four through your nose. Simple,” she says.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).