How Yoga Made Me Love Hip Hop

Lisa Markuson

Today we bring you musings from Lisa. She rocked it at the Yoga Journal Conference in NYC last week. Lisa is a self-proclaimed hippy philanthropist specializing in yoga and healthful integrative activity and philosophy as a mode of grassroots activism and community building, especially within the queer, cultural minority, and non-normative communities.

She makes a mean pineapple, mint, jalapeno juice concoction and has super cool fashion. Come hang out at her weekly yoga brunch at The Dunes every Saturday: visit makemsayOM.com for more infos! You can also read about her awesomeness at Our Bitchin’ Tumblr and follow her on twitter and instagram @LisaMarkuson. She loves that.

I almost didn’t even attend my hip hop asana class this Sunday. After a total of 14 hours of yoga classes over the preceding 36 hour period, I seriously doubted my ability to explore the intersection of yoga, a practice at which I am still a beginner, and hip hop, which I was pretty sure I couldn’t even identify if I heard it. But I figured, if I had signed up for that class, it was probably for some reason, and I couldn’t waste an opportunity which surely would not arise again any time soon.

I entered the class and recognized a slight, bright-eyed man in a purple hat, with whom I had shared the embarrassing number of sample vegan ice cream bars I had consumed over the course of the conference. I confidently announced that I planned to “suck” at the class. He agreed to also perform poorly, admitting he had never even tried yoga before, and didn’t like to dance. I set down my mat and trotted off to the bathroom, telling him not to let the teacher start class without me.

I reentered the room a few moments later to see the entire 50-person class gathered around my purple-hatted friend, introducing himself as Jules Febre, our instructor.

First lesson: yogis are actually very funny.

Jules’ collaborators were his own brother, a professional break dancer, and an enormous shaved-headed French beat boxer. Each one took turns teaching us their specialties, and by the time the music started I was ready to use my breath to move prana and drop a layered beat, and move into an asana sequence integrated with the six-step, the foundation of all break dancing.

Throughout the subsequent practice we listened to a selection of hip hop, funk, and R&B, which shocked me by being both wonderful-sounding and perfectly suited to a rhythmic yoga class.

Second lesson: hip hop is not rap.

Febre encouraged us to move through poses in new ways, twist and shake with abandon, and to “get over ourselves” and not be shy. His straightforward speech and humor were refreshing after so many hours of very serious and esoteric classes and workshops. We snapped our fingers in seated twists, snaked our bodies up into standing poses, and didn’t take any of the innovative sequences too seriously. At one point, I shocked myself by being able to transition from a headstand to warrior and back again seamlessly, though I was not able to follow Febre’s impressive lead by floating silently from plank to crow. Seriously.

Talking to Febre after the class, I learned that he teaches yoga to homeless and incarcerated youths, as well as at the awe-inspiring Jivamukti temple in Union Square. Meeting people like him is slowly but surely congealing my passion to explore yoga on not only personal and physical levels, but on social and activism levels as well. Next thing I need to try is punk rock yoga- I was assured by a helpful anarchist yogi that it is totally feasible.

Third lesson: There are many ways to tap into and explore our vibrational human nature, OMM is just one.

-Lisa

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