Trap Yoga Hits New Haven

Graves: Two of my favorite things. Lucy Gellman Photo. 

Graves: Two of my favorite things. Lucy Gellman Photo. 

On a recent Saturday morning, Thema Graves was reaching back into her memory, recalling a session she’d had with MC Yogi. The subject at hand: hip-hop, asana, and loving the body you’ve got. 

“Just take a minute to center yourself, to be with your body,” she ministered to six women at Alisa’s House of Salsa, all of them cross-legged on the their yoga mats. “Because at the end of this, when we leave here, it’s just the two of you. You and your body.”  

Sun streamed through the front windows. Six bodies, still flushed from the warm outside, prepared to find their center through vinyasa flow. They had an unlikely soundtrack: 2 Chainz’ “It’s A Vibe,” looping from the back of the room. 

Thema Graves/Alisa's House of Salsa Photo. 

Thema Graves/Alisa's House of Salsa Photo. 

Graves is leading a charge to bring trap yoga—vinyasa practice set to the crisp, bouncy and beat-flecked flows of trap music—to New Haven. Since early September, she has folded it into her Saturday ritual, partnering with dancer, radio host and business owner Alisa Bowens to offer classes at Alisa’s House of Salsa on Westville’s main drag. Classes are held for an hour each Saturday, from 1-2 p.m. 

It’s not the kind of yoga that students might be used to. No lavender oil is gently applied during Shavasana (corpse pose), and instead of a quiet fan, an air conditioner blows in fits and starts from the front of the room, becoming part of the soundtrack. Played at low volume from the back of the room, tracks from 2 Chainz, Keri Faux, Drake, Sage the Gemini, Calvin Harris, French Montana and others fill the space. 

It makes for downward-facing dog, cobra, warrior and lunge poses peppered with lyrics like “Been bustin' bills, but still ain't nothin' change/You in the mob soon as you rock the chain,” and “You my type, my type and I'm starving/I think you fit my appetite/Kan you live up to the hype?”

But they’re not incongruous with yogic practice, Graves said after the most recent session. If yoga is about centering oneself through meditative, repeated movement and measured breath, then trap yoga just makes it a little less formal and more jubilant—while keeping participants in the zone.       

“Be a little freer with your movements,” she encouraged students who were new to the class. “Maybe you can bounce your booty a little, do some free movements.” 

The six students (of whom this reporter was one) slowly took the advice to heart, shedding self-conscious peeks at fellow practitioners for rhythmic footwork, slow-pedaling feet and cracking joints, and a little extra hip action. In Bowens’ small, no-frills studio, they jumped into their flows, adding some sway to wheeling arms and long, shallow lunges. The sweet, dank scent of sweat and heavy, deep breathing filled the room by the end of the hour. 

As the clock neared 2 p.m., Graves ushered the group into Shavasana, on which it is customary for classes to end. It’s a pose in which the body is splayed out on a mat, spine to the floor, back of head and heels touching the ground. From the back of the space, soft lyrics continued to bounce from an iPhone onto the walls, and onto the floors. 

“Passionate from miles away/Passive with the things you say/Passin’ up on my old ways/I can't blame you no, no,” sang Drake.  

The room, otherwise, was completely silent. 

Afterwards, Graves said that classes have been going just as she’d envisioned at the beginning. 

“It’s like a yoga party. Asana to dance beats … two things I love,” she said. She added that it’s been slowly growing by word of mouth, which she’d hoped for. “You know it’s good when people come back every week and bring their friends!” 

Trap Yoga with Thema takes place every Saturday from 1-2 p.m. at Alisa's House of Salsa, 912 Whalley Ave., New Haven. Classes are $15 and all skill levels are welcome.