Hip Hop Yoga adds new twist to centuries-old practice

- At Nirvana Yoga Studios in Atlanta's Grant Park, Jaimee Ratliff centers her class, then cranks up the volume.

Welcome to Hip Hop Yoga.

Watch video here

"I wanted to create a practice where people feel free to move how they want," says the certified yoga instructor. "They don't feel judged. It's not a pretentious atmosphere."

Because, as much as Ratliff loves yoga, she was noticing something that made her uncomfortable.

There were almost no faces of color. 

"Whenever I would go to class, I was always the only student, or maybe like one of two or three," she says.  "And, it kind of made me uncomfortable to hear the teacher say, 'This is for everyone.'  But, when you're the only person who looks like you, you don't necessarily feel like it's for everyone."

So, she decided to try a new spin -- combining yoga with a hip hop sound mix.

"I wanted to create something where people of all ethnicities, shapes and sizes feel welcome," Ratliff says. 

Lauren Lundy, a 28-year old fulltime mom, first discovered yoga when she was pregnant,  thinking it might help with her delivery. 

Two years later, she found this class.

"That's what initially sparked my interest, 'Okay, we're going to be listening to music that I like,'" Lundy says.  "Most of the music I haven't heard because I'm always with my two-year old. But it's just a different vibe, a different feeling, when I'm in her class."

Soon, Lundy was telling all her friends about Hip Hop Yoga.

"They're like, 'How does that work," she laughs.

Because, aren't you supposed to be meditating?

"And I tell them,  'Yeah, we still do that. We meditate. But at the same time, in the middle of our meditation, we're listening to music.'" Lundy says.

Hip Hop Yoga may seem like a stretch to yoga purists, but Ratliff says you get the same mind-body health benefits as you would with traditional yoga. 

They work on stretching, balance, and getting centered.

They just do it to music.

"But you're also, again, going to get that breath work, to work on the anxiety," Ratliff says. "This also helps with mental illnesses, depression, and alleviating stress."

And Lauren Lundy is glad she found yoga she can embrace.

"There is a lot of times when Jaimee is wrapping up the class and I am literally on my mat sobbing, silently," Lundy says. "Because it just appears, it's really brought a peace to me. It made me feel like myself again."

Ratliff organizes pop-up yoga classes across Atlanta.  You can sign up for her email list at www.jaimeeratliff.com.  

She will send out a blast letting list members know when and where the next class will be held.  

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