Yoga is very much associated with spiritual practices of ancient India, but if you’re in New York City or LA, you might know it as an hour of beat bumping, sweat dripping flows lit only by candlelight. That’s the brainchild of Sarah Larson. She felt distracted when practicing in the traditional formats of yoga and took it into her own hands to create a few yoga pop-ups in a whole new format. It was an overnight hit, and now Y7 Studio has 13 different locations for you to bend and bow to the latest hip hop hits.
We caught up with Sarah to talk about what it takes to build brands that break the mold and the importance of exploring fitness that works for you.
What were the experiences that led you to start Y7 Studio?
I was trying a ton of yoga studios throughout the city and could never really find a studio where I felt comfortable. There was always bright lights, mirrors and prerequisites for going into a class. I felt like there was no room for me to explore my own body and practice.
So, what was the primary goal in building Y7? What has it been like building a brand that went against the grain of typical yoga studios?
My goal in building Y7 was and is to break down the traditional barriers to yoga and make it inclusive and accessible for everyone. Building a brand like this has been tough for sure – we receive criticism from a lot of traditional practitioners but that’s okay…we aren’t building this for them. We’re building it for the people who have felt excluded by those experiences and want to feel they are a part of something.
Were you able to convert any of the traditional yogis to the Y7 scene?
I would say it’s 50/50. There is no right or wrong way to practice, it just depends on how open-minded you are.
You really broke the mold for what’s to be expected, but how did that resonate with the rest of the community?
I was pleasantly surprised by how many people resonated with what we are doing. Talking to our community now, there have been so many times when people have said that they could never get into yoga and that Y7 helped them not only get into the practice but connect with themselves.
“We receive criticism from a lot of traditional practitioners but that’s okay…we aren’t building this for them. We’re building it for the people who have felt excluded by those experiences and want to feel they are a part of something.”
Community is important to you. How do you ensure people feel a sense of belonging at Y7 Studio?
Within the studio room, we make sure that all of the flows we are teaching and how they are taught are accessible to everyone, no matter what your skill level is.
You once said, “I’m very, very people dependent.” How does that translate to your day-to-day?
I delegate a lot. My business is all about people and I can’t be everywhere at once.
What were your criteria when building the Y7 Studio team?
I look for drive, enthusiasm and commitment – for people who aren’t afraid to be on the ground helping out.
What was your relationship with sport and activity like growing up and how has that changed now as a studio owner?
I always played sports growing up. When I went to college my relationship with sport kind of ended and I was a ‘go to the gym once a week’ kind of person. It wasn’t until I moved to NYC after college that I began exploring the group fitness scene.
Yoga hasn’t always been your brand of active, so what drew you to it?
I love the idea of the mind-body connection, along with everything that yoga stands for. I was having trouble getting into the physical practice of yoga which is why Y7 was created.
“I love the idea of the mind-body connection, along with everything that yoga stands for. I was having trouble getting into the physical practice of yoga which is why Y7 was created.”
What does balance mean to you? What are the most valuable things or practices in life that give you balance?
I don’t really like the term balance, it portrays the sense that you have to do everything tit for tat. I think in terms of harmony. As someone who owns their own business, I work a ton – but I like it. I get bored in a bubble bath. For me to reach that work/life harmony, it’s about making sure I make time to spend with the people I love.
What’s your go-to song for a sweat session?
Ohhhh I don’t know! Right now, it’s Barbie Dreams by Nicki Minaj.
How does the way you live your life affect your wardrobe choices on a day-to-day basis?
I am always in and out of the studio so I’m pretty much in yoga clothes all the time! My former fashion career self would roll her eyes.
Speaking of your former fashion self, Y7 is in the apparel game now. Was that sort of a natural progression?
Absolutely. It’s an important part of the brand and really expands our footprint beyond the physical studio locations.
What does the term ‘everyday athlete’ mean to you and how does it resonate with you?
To me, it means moving every day. It means no matter what you have going on, you make the time to move for yourself.
Photos by: Marielle Sales