Stretch It Out With @yogiberi

Leah: What is yogiberi and what lead you to become a yoga instructor?

Erika: Growing up I was into sports and I’m not naturally flexible at all! I never stretched and was barely even able to touch my toes. After college, I lived out west in Colorado where I found that yoga was the perfect balance to my active lifestyle. It was also super popular and all of the locals were doing it. When I first started out, I just followed what the other people around me were doing because I didn’t know the names of the poses. A year after living in CO, I moved to NYC, started working in the fashion industry and found that I needed to practice yoga daily for my mental wellbeing. After living in a ski town surrounded by fresh air and mountains, I was totally overwhelmed by the fast pace of NYC. Yoga completely helped me acclimate to the hecticness of NYC.

After a few years of living in NYC, I felt the urge to deepen my yoga practice and began to research different yoga teacher training programs. Initially when I signed up for the yoga teacher training, I wanted to deepen my practice, open a yoga studio down the line, but not necessarily become a yoga teacher. I was petrified of public speaking! I kept putting off doing a training because of various life events. I finally pulled the trigger and started my 200 hour yoga teacher training in September 2015 and never looked back! Ironically, I don’t want to open a yoga studio anymore and I ended up switching careers. I work full time as a yoga teacher and am happier than ever!

As far as the name yogiberi, as a kid, my family & closest friends nicknamed me Eri, Eriberi or Beri. I also love berries and eat them every single day. So yogiberi stems moreso from my nicknames and a little bit from my love for berries :).

Leah: Although I’m a dietitian, I really don’t know much about yoga. People swear by the benefits, so I’d love to know more about them! 

Erika: There are a million positive benefits from doing yoga. In yoga, we examine both the physical and subtle bodies. The “subtle” body being the mind. Yoga helps calm the nervous system, it gives a sense of community, increases energy, increases flexibility, strengthens muscles and the list goes on. Personally, I’ve gotten so much more flexible, strong in my core and arms, am more body aware and I feel so much more relaxed after I practice.

Leah: To be honest, I very rarely do yoga (SO guilty), how do I even start? P.S. I’m NOT naturally flexible.

Erika: Yoga is for EVERYONE! Anyone can do yoga at any age, at any stage of life, in any place, flexible or not! I would start by taking a beginner’s class at your local studio where they really break down the fundamentals of each pose. Or I highly recommend scheduling private sessions where I can give you my undivided attention. Private yoga is the best way to deepen and personalize your practice! One of my biggest tips is that your breath is EVERYTHING in yoga.

Leah: Is there any food/beverage that you eat or drink, either pre or post yoga? And why?

Erika: You’re not really supposed to eat before yoga. I wouldn’t recommend eating a full meal right before practicing because you’re more likely to feel lethargic and heavy during practice. If I’m feeling low energy, usually right when I wake up, I just have a banana and a cup of hot water with lemon beforehand. The banana because I like to have a little something in my stomach and the hot water with lemon because it cleanses the entire body. Post yoga I usually have a smoothie - with berries of course.

Leah: Where can I catch your next class?

Erika: I’m back and forth between NYC & Philly (primarily Philly), but catch me in NYC every Monday & Tuesday! I teach on Mondays at Yoga Vida (TriBeCa) at 6am in NYC, on Thursdays at Priya Hot Yoga at 4:30pm in Philadelphia and sub regularly at their studios as well.

MAJOR BONUS: If you email with the subject "Tovita for Yoga," you are eligible to receive 15% off a private session! This offer expires after 12/31/16, so make sure to schedule your next session ASAP! 

Interview with Sarah Levey, Co-Founder of Y7 Yoga

This week we sat down with Sarah Levey, the co-founder of Y7, a New York City hot yoga studio with a truly unique spin. Sarah and her husband have taken yoga to the next level by swapping the spa music with pump up tunes. You won't find chanting or third eyes in their candlelit studios. If you want the benefits of yoga while listening to music that will get you rallied rather than wind you down, Y7 is for you. Believe us, hip-hop Wednesdays will have you hooked.

sarah levey y7

What inspired you to start Y7?

My husband (and other half of Y7) Mason, used to practice yoga everyday at a studio in our hometown in Michigan. It was similar to Y7 in the sense that it had low lighting, it was heated, and the music was really dope. It was still traditional yoga music but they played remixes and it just had a cool vibe. 

I started practicing with him back home and when we moved to NYC we couldn’t find yoga that we liked. There are so many different kinds, it was overwhelming and there was just nothing that compared. I’ve actually walked out of classes before. I found that a lot of instructors were ego driven and talked a lot about their own endeavors. We both got fed up and stopped practicing all together for two or three years.

Mason went home to Michigan for a little bit and got back into yoga. It was then that we decided we wanted to try to create something we love. We hired instructors off of craigslist and rented a small space in Williamsburg - a fourth floor walk up and we had a rolling trunk with mats inside it. We checked people in in the hallway with a rolling desk. When we had our first client buy a monthly unlimited package we had to get a real space. We still only had a 7am, 7pm, and an 8:15pm class that either Mason or I would oversee before or after work.  

Eventually we outgrew that small space and moved into a bigger space in April, 2014 and now we are continuing to expand to Flatiron and Soho.

What are some songs we can expect to hear at Y7?

We have Hip hop Wednesdays which is always centered around a specific artist, this week it’s ASAP Rocky. Others are FKA Twigs, the Weeknd, Drake, Florence and the Machine.

A lot of our teachers are really into music so they find underground music that you would never even know about. It’s really cool.

y7 yoga

What’s it like working with your husband?

Hardest fucking thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s great but we spend a lot of time together and we work so differently. I can’t go home from the office and complain to my husband about work. I’m not a morning person, he’s up at 7am. I like to write reminders down with a pen, he needs to have an iCal calendar invite. While these little things are funny, the important part is that I know there is a level of trust with everything and we are always on the same page with our vision.

What is your go-to food before and after a workout?

Before I usually go for a banana for the potassium or green juice.

After class it’s kind of a free for all. If I’m in Williamburg I go to Juice Generation and get a bowl or smoothie. We also eat a lot of Sweetgreen.

What are 3 staples always in your fridge

1. Wandering Bear iced coffee. It’s made in NY and they deliver.  We have the wackiest schedules so we always need coffee around.

2. Tomatoes and mozzarella, it’s my go to snack.

3. Ketchup.

What’s your favorite meal of the day and why?

I love breakfast but I don’t like eating it when I wake up. I love eggs and breakfast food at lunch or dinner time.

How do you stay hydrated?

I carry a giant water bottle with me all the times and force myself to drink it. I try to drink at least 60 ounces a day

You’re on an island and can only bring 3 things with you. Go.

1. Kindle

2. Eyelash curler

3. My dogs. Bye husband!

What would you say to someone who is hesitant to try Y7?

The great thing about us is that our classes are dark and there are no mirrors. It’s designed like that because we found the yoga industry in New York to be very pretentious and everyone is always looking at other people’s bodies and what they're wearing. Yoga isn’t about that, it should be about your personal journey. There are some moves I’ll never be able to do, but I'm okay with that. There’s an arm balance thing my husband can do that I’ll just never be able to do. But I can touch my toes and my husband can’t! Literally you can lie down in the back of the room and nobody will notice.

Biggest takeaway from Y7?

It’s not so serious. It should be fun. Not everyone’s body is going to look the same. It’s not a competition. Y7 should make you feel great about yourself.