The Hip-Hop Infused Yoga Flow to Get Your Heart Pumping

ELXR Yoga combines the demanding asanas of Ashtanga Yoga and the cardiovascular elements of Power Yoga with athleticism, alignment, mindfulness, and motivation.

Photo: Brien Hollowell

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For nearly a decade, hurdling was my passion, first as a high schooler, then as a Division I collegiate athlete. I loved the focus, the speed, and the precision that helped me clear the hurdles as if they were not even in my way. My training required countless hours of intense running and advanced technique drills, plus heavy weightlifting. These workouts, while beneficial for my sport, wreaked havoc on my hip joints, neck, and low back.

I wanted a nonmedical way to manage and possibly heal the stress put on my body from being an elite athlete. Because I relish physical challenges, I decided to try Power Yoga and, eventually, Ashtanga Yoga. I recall thinking no yoga class could possibly be more challenging than my first Power class. I remember how grateful I felt for having survived the hour!

Ashtanga’s physical intensity felt similar to Power Yoga. But what it helped me to unlock emotionally was unmatched by any other movement practice. Ashtanga led me to discover who I truly am as a human. It transformed me from being stressed and anxiety-ridden to feeling more equanimity and focus. I was hooked on both forms of yoga.

Nine years later, my life-changing experiences with these practices, plus my athletic approach to movement, motivated me to create ELXR, a yoga style that combines the demanding asanas of Ashtanga Yoga and the cardiovascular elements of Power Yoga with athleticism, alignment, mindfulness, and motivation. The physicality of these practices requires you to go deep within yourself to find steady breath and to embrace mindfulness, focus, patience, and perseverance.

Yes, this work is intense. The practice elevates your heart rate, increases flexibility, and builds strength. Mentally, you will use mindfulness to learn about your muscular engagement and postural alignment. And the physical challenges allow you to unlock your true capacity for growth and to spiritually prime yourself for the journey to samadhi, or “bliss.”

ELXR makes room for fun and innovation, too. There’s no set pose sequence, so our instructors have freedom to play with what they teach. We play hip-hop and deep house music in class and encourage students to sing and dance when their favorite song comes on. We embrace a “come as you are” approach.

Ultimately, ELXR Yoga isn’t about achieving the pose as much as learning about yourself in the process. We encourage patience and perseverance through all the tough things that are thrown your way. It doesn’t matter what your limits are, as long as you develop the courage to test them.

The Hallmarks of an ELXR Flow Session

Use these guidelines when you try the practice.

  1. Opening Meditation: We begin our classes with a brief opening meditation to help the group become more present in their bodies. Come into Sukhasana (Easy Pose) or Balasana (Child’s Pose) and spend 5 minutes there, focusing on your breath.
  2. Gentle, Awakening Movements: Next, flow through some warm-up moves, such as MarjaryasanaBitilasana (Cat-Cow Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), variations of Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), or Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose).
  3. Strengthening, Warming Poses: Move from Downward-Facing Dog Pose to Plank Pose several times to awaken strength in the body. Then flow through three rounds each of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) A and B.
  4. Strength and Balance Challenges: Work with postures that involve the entire body. Elevate your heart rate with fast flows, vinyasas, long holds in arm balances, and extended holds in standing poses like Warrior III. Incorporate pulsing moves such as curtsy squats and Boat Pose drills to fatigue muscles. To amp up the challenge, take a vinyasa after each posture.
  5. Standing Flow Sequences: Move into a standing flow sequence that emphasizes fluidity of movement and mindful focus via graceful transitions between asanas. This part of the practice is focused less on keeping the heart rate up and more on embodying the poses with integrity. Control transitions even though you’re (possibly) feeling exhausted.
  6. Final Challenge Series: ELXR Yoga ends with one final challenge that encourages practitioners to find their true selves by releasing self-doubt and judgment of their practice. Try Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose).
  7. Cool Down: Transition to the mat to lower the heart rate and rest. Move through some hip openers, seated forward folds, reclining twists, and Happy Baby.
  8. Relaxation: Close the session with at least 5 minutes of relaxation in Savasana (Corpse Pose).