Instant serenity is granted to all who set foot inside The Yoga Room. This unassuming walk-up yoga oasis calms and soothes with the swirling scent of incense and peace -- before you can even strike a pose.
Don't let this composed setting fool you. This space moonlights as a concert hall, and an unconventional one at that.
Nicole Tobias, who co-owns The Yoga Room with Tom Tobias, has been a fierce supporter of hard, fast and loud yoga for the last eight years with a rock-and-roll style that pairs almost aerobic movements, like sit-ups and push-ups, with a blend of folk, metal and hip-hop playlists.
While the Rock-and-Roll Yoga class is a star amongst a traditional yoga menu, "I knew I had to take it to a different place," Tobias said.
Breathing new life into an ancient practice with a yoga class so progressive, bigger cities like Seattle and Los Angeles have yet to catch on. "You don't hear about it all over the place," she said. "Taking a band, like a concert, and doing yoga to that live music instead of playing a playlist or listening to a band at a bar."
Spearheading the live music yoga movement, Tobias has created a "brand" of yoga that combines traditional asanas, or poses, providing the same health and spiritual benefits as a conventional session and bringing the "background music" to the forefront of one's yoga experience.
"There's something very visceral and vibrant about live music versus a good playlist," Tobias said. "If you can have live music, it's going to take your experience to a farther place."
Live music yoga has piqued the interest of open-minded Tulsans, from the novice to seasoned yogis alike, and generally draws a younger crowd. "I really appreciate Tulsa in the way that it lends itself to creative projects," Tobias said. "I didn't have to be super connected and super wealthy to do something out of the box."
The inception of Live Music Yoga came to fruition by chance at Tobias' birthday party where Austin, Texas, transplants Mark Gibson and his bassist Ryan Magnani were hired to play. They seemed to fit a musical atmosphere Tobias was searching for, and she asked them to play a yoga class. "It was a perfect storm," she said.
"People would love -- especially the yoga community -- to hear music in a yoga class instead of going to a smoky bar. There are a lot of people that don't go to concerts because they're late, there's a drinking and a smoking element sometimes. That's not appealing, so they just forfeit the music. I think with a yoga class -- it's a clean healthy way to listen to music," Tobias said.
The first live music yoga class was held at The Yoga Room and drew an impressive and curious crowd of about 70 people. The following classes outgrew The Yoga Room with about 150 people attending and required larger venues like Just Camp and the IDL Ballroom.
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"It's more of a fun experience, not a serious traditional class," Tobias said. "You don't have to have any yoga knowledge." A huge misconception, she believes, that intimidates people new to yoga.
Tobias stresses that all poses taught in live music yoga are on a beginner's level and are easy and doable, even for someone who is completely new to yoga. Each participant works alone and may hold poses however long they wish. Yoga is a no pressure zone and encourages you to evolve your practice at a comfortable pace.
"It's a very personal thing, your experience is yours and it's not a team. It's all about what you need to do for yourself," Tobias said.
From a musician's perspective, playing a yoga class is a dream gig. At least it is for singer-songwriter Mark Gibson.
"It certainly gives your performance an added depth," Gibson said. "A lot of times when you play there's a lot of chatter. It's a great thing whenever you have a whole room totally silent and paying attention to what you're doing. That's an incredible thing to feel as an artist."
No distractions, an intimate setting and a true appreciation of music aren't the only perks Gibson and company have experienced. Playing Tobias' yoga classes has created a new medium for the band to spread its name. Bands are beginning to diversify themselves, and playing yoga classes could be a new way to market their music to a different audience.
"Beyond that," Gibson said, "when you have all these people doing movements to the music it adds another element. It makes it even more intimate, a little more special. You have to give a little more to these people listening because they're giving so much to you."
Tobias agrees. "In a yoga class, there's nothing else but the music and my voice telling them what to do with their bodies," she said. It creates an opportunity to listen to the music with one's whole body.
In a live music yoga class, the music is unrestricted and artists may play whatever they choose. There are no soundchecks, and Tobias is not given a set list either. Everything is based on spontaneity. "I want the music to be the dictation," she said.
Whether you're a music lover, a yoga junkie or you're just curious, live music yoga welcomes everyone with open arms and encourages you to be creative. "Take your yoga, your life, your everything to a different level because you're not restrained by these thoughts that you need to do yoga a certain way or work out a certain way and listen to music in a certain genre. We don't have to do any of that, it's all our own prison," Tobias said. "I'm glad I've had such a good audience for that here, that have taken it in."
The next live music yoga class is scheduled for Saturday, June 16, at 5pm at The Yoga Room, 3403 S. Peoria Ave. No mats are required; The Yoga Room offers a full service studio with all the yoga materials one may need. Just bring water and a willingness to try something new. For more information on The Yoga Room and additional classes and services visit theyogaroomtulsa.com or call 918-808-9642.
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