I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor while psychedelic music and mind-tingling projections assault my senses and leave me feeling…well, high.
No, I haven’t taken some mind-altering hallucinogenic – I’m doing yoga, of course.
By now, you’ll have gathered that this isn’t your run of the mill yoga; it’s Yung Club Yoga, an amalgamation of sound, sight and action that’s taking Hackney’s fitness fans by storm.
The brainchild of friends Rebecca Russell-Turner and Alison Bracegirdle, both Hackney residents, Yung Club Yoga is counter-intuitive in that, unlike regular yoga, which is often practised in a calm environment, it is loud, energetic, and exciting – the lights are dim, vibrant animations are projected on to the walls and the stereo booms.
The founders met when Bracegirdle began attending Sunday morning yoga sessions held by Russell-Turner.
“I’d been doing yoga for 10 years and I don’t think I’d ever been in a class quite the same as Rebecca’s,” says Bracegirdle. “She was incorporating music, and imagery, and I just thought to myself ‘okay… there’s definitely potential for something more advanced than this’”.
The duo reached out to animators to bring their vision to life.
“We spoke to some of the most amazing animators in the world, and most of them were just busy – but they all really liked the idea,” explains Bracegirdle.
The perfect fit wound up being animation artists The Great Nordic Sword Fights, whose work Rebecca describes as, “Completely and utterly psychedelic and bonkers”.
The animators were set the task of producing visuals to four different themes: City, Sea, Space, and Wild, using software that DJs use to sync music to animation. “We had such rich visions for what we wanted that it was difficult at first. But maybe two or three rounds in, something happened. There was a breakthrough. All of a sudden we had full under the sea explosions of creatures everywhere. We were watching one, and we were just screaming.”
It’s early days for Yung Club, but the duo’s plans are to have a new set of animations every six months, timing the changing of visuals to the fashion schedule.
“We’ve got so many different skills. We’ve literally been everywhere and tried everything between us,” says Russell-Turner, who has delved into the worlds of styling, art, and has even been a PA to Woody Harrelson.
“When you’re a PA to a Hollywood celebrity, the only time you’d have off is if you said: ‘I’m just doing some yoga, or some meditation’ and it would be like ‘okay, we understand’ because other than that, it’s all quite full-on.” It was Harrelson’s backstage yoga practice that initially inspired Rebecca to take up the practice herself.
“It just seemed to put him in this amazing place.” She says “he would go out there and perform to his best ability.”
It’s no accident that the classes are done at night. “This time of year is really important, the clocks change, and we really want to light people up, make them feel connected,” argues Russell-Turner. “Sometimes in the winter you can feel like you probably don’t want to go out. You can go to the cinema or to the pub, but this is an amazing option where you can go and get fit, have these amazing lights and colours and warmth, and be taken on a journey.”
“Something we talk about a lot is being non-competitive and creating an experience that, unlike most fitness classes, is not centred around guilt,” says Alison. “It’s around fun, and pleasure and it’s supposed to be something that you don’t even realise you’re doing a fitness activity.
“We really want to send you to a different place for an hour, and then bring you back. We want to immerse you in a totally different world.”
The experience itself is truly something else. Music informs the visuals, which in turn inform your body movements in perfect flow. Rebecca’s vocal direction is a soothing chant that guides you through the practice. David Bowie’s Space Oddity plays as projections of comets soar above my head. A gust of lavender surrounds the hot and sweaty room.
“You’ve just been to space with Yung Club, Namaste,” says Rebecca as she ends the class.
Yung Club Yoga is on every Monday 7-8pm at Pembury Centre. To book a class, go to http://www.yung.club/bookings/