Why I Teach Yoga To Hip Hop

Why I Teach Yoga To Hip Hop

I teach a class called Muscle & Flow [yes, like Hustle & Flow]. I often give the caveat before we start class that one should not expect to hear “yoga music” just in case someone hasn’t read the description ahead of time. See, the thing is, I fell in love with yoga my senior year in college (late 90’s), not because it was a fad, it wasn’t really quite yet, but because it helped me cope with severe anxiety. But, I fell in love with hip hop in the mid 80’s (ish), not because it was a fad, it wasn’t yet, but because beats and rhymes were life. I am a yogi and a hip hop head. So, yes, I [unapologetically] teach yoga to hip hop music.
Here’s why:

Because hip hop. Hip hop is my world, y’all. It is my life’s soundtrack. It’s where I go when I need to decompress, when I need to focus, when I need a distraction, when I need to get hyped for something (ie: my dissertation defense) and for everything in between. I teach with hip hop not because I think it will be a cute trend, but just because it is who I am. It wouldn’t make sense to me any other way. All of my classes are based on hip hop.


Because I believe in Deepak and 2Pac. Life wisdom and thoughtful words come in many forms. Make them rhyme and throw some dope beats behind them and watch me swoon.IMG_8535


Because movement is my dance. Although I think I would like to be one in my next life, I am not a dancer {sigh}. I am a mover. An athlete. A yogi. My movement expression comes in the form of burpees, hill runs and sun salutations. These things all have a beat and a cadence in my head. It just so happens that when I hear hip hop beats I think about movement. They coincide. So, I dance in sweat. On the road, on the gym floor and on my mat.


Because head bobbing in downward dog is totally reasonable. Yes, yoga is an ancient practice rooted in tradition and I respect the hell out of that. But life evolves and tradition meets modernity. We can blend and fuse and incorporate principles, theories, and knowledge from many different disciplines and modalities. My yoga classes also incorporate movements not traditionally associated with the asanas. That, too, is ok. I like to play with movement, with rhythm and with flow. We can’t take ourselves too seriously, right? Please believe, I take form seriously for the sake of safety and effectiveness, but if you want to bob your head, mouth some lyrics, or laugh when some song reminds you of a junior high dance, I promise your yoga practice won’t suffer.

Because we are surrounded by noise. And noise isn’t necessarily bad. I step on my mat to disconnect from the noise of my to-dos and reconnect with my body. To go inside. That does not mean it needs to be silent to do this. There is absolutely a time and place for silent meditation and I’m not saying we should disregard that. However, we live in a world full of noise – good and bad. Loud music [regardless of genre] is noise. It can be the most amazingly beautiful or illest beat kind of noise, but it’s still noise. If you can learn to go inside and connect despite the positive or negative “noise” happening around you, guess what? You might just be able to do that off your mat too. Boom.


Because life, too, is explicit. Yes, sometimes the lyrics are explicit and harsh. But, at least in my experience, sometimes life is also explicit and harsh. Sometimes I play a song because of its deep meaning. And, other times, purely for its dope beat. The truth is, I have a PhD, my intentions come from a place of love and kindness to others and to myself, but I curse like it’s my job. Listen, I just think certain adjectives work better. Is that so bad? Sh..stuff happens in life. It’s ok to express that.

Because yoga is dope. It has changed my life. And I want other hip hop heads to learn that for themselves. Reality is, preconceived notions exist about who does/should do yoga. It is not always the most welcoming. Maybe, just maybe, by appealing to the ears of the hip hop community, I can help also open eyes to the practice of yoga. I want to create an environment for those that might not otherwise feel welcomed.

Hip hop is life. Yoga is life. Muscle & Flow was a perfect blend for me and I love sharing my love of both with my students. I teach in the Bay Area as well as events across the country. I have even been known to teach it in bars with live DJs. Come see how we #GoHardandGoOM!

Sample playlist: https://soundcloud.com/shaunaharrison/sets/muscle-flow

Shauna Harrison

Shauna is a self-proclaimed nerd, hip-hop head, jock, and yogi. A graduate of Stanford, UCLA and Johns Hopkins, she simultaneously pursued academics and fitness and ultimately.secured a sponsorship with Under Armour® shortly after finishing her PhD in Public Health. Shauna teaches classes across the Bay Area that fuse her varied background and love for hip hop. In addition to Under Armour®, Shauna partners with TRX®, Zico Coconut Water®, Designer Protein® and is Lifestyle Athlete for Zenrez. She is a contributing writer for MindBodyGreen, The Body Department, and My Fit Station and runs the #SweatADay challenge on Instagram, which she created.