Yoga Spark, with two locations in New York City, works to create unique classes that take what you expect from yoga “and flip it on its head,” according to Julia Yarwood, the studio director.
The BlackLightSpark class was created to do just that, but became so popular they had to find a way to more easily hold the classes consistently. At first, the classes were monthly with a live DJ and portable black lights. Now for the class, it’s all done with a flip of a switch. The studio had black lights installed into the ceilings and window shades designed to easily darken the entire room.
For BlackLightSpark classes, Yarwood said the demographic is a little bit of everyone. They have regulars who absolutely love the black light style classes, drop-ins who see the trend and want to try it, corporate groups who use the experience as team bonding, and they’ve found the classes are really popular with men.
Yarwood said people who tend to be really self-conscious often gravitate toward the black light class because the room is darker, you don’t see the mirrors as much and you don’t feel like the spotlight is on you.
“I think that often when you’re in a yoga class you can feel really self-conscious — there are mirrors everywhere, there are big lights, you feel like everyone is looking at you — even though I guarantee they’re not, it can still feel like that. So when you have black lights in the room, it’s totally dark. It allows you to kind of be in your own space, feel your own body a little bit more, to kind of trust yourself to experience the class that you’re in as opposed to feeling pressure or expectation from the teacher and everyone else in the room,” said Yarwood.
To make all of their classes more comfortable, Yarwood prides the studios on being equipped with “really awesome people.”
“We definitely push our students, but it is open level so we are really specific about who we hire, who we put on staff — all of our teachers are really experienced at boosting everybody in the room, but also making everyone feel really comfortable. That being said, you absolutely will work hard, you absolutely will sweat in this class,” said Yarwood.
Another unique facet that adds variety to their classes is they don’t post the teacher schedule online or in the studio, which Yarwood cited helps with faster progression for the students.
“On a psychological level, the more variety you have the faster you’re going to progress,” said Yarwood. “I’ve worked at a lot of different studios all around and I’ve never seen students progress as fast as they do within our studio, within our style. It’s really got a good pace to it, but it is absolutely a safe environment so you can kind of allow yourself to try things you might not feel confident enough to try in other studios or other contexts.”
Yarwood said it’s important everyone feels safe, but also like they can push their own personal boundaries at their studios. They don’t want people to come in and feel like they’re ever being talked down to — they want people to come in and feel like they’re a part of the community.
“That’s a huge part of who we are and what we believe in,” said Yarwood. “Yoga is a conversation, it’s not a speech or a monologue.”