A dark, candle-lit room pulses to Wiz Khalifa’s Black and Yellow and we are instructed to “let go” with a deep exhale as we fold into downward dog. Instead of relying on our reflections in the mirror, the words “A Tribe Called Sweat” are painted on the wall, forcing us to find motivation from our internal breath, the energy of others and the beat of hip-hop music. Comfortably warmed with infrared heat, the room reaches a toasty 90 degrees, making the space feel that much more intimate and forcing us to become aware of our bodies; to breathe deeper and stretch further. The unexpected pairing of hot yoga and hip-hop music make for a truly therapeutic and invigorating workout at Y7 Studio.
With celebrities frequenting Y7 studios and the opening of seven locations within the last four years, five in New York City and two in Los Angeles, Y7 Studio appears to be filling a gap in the fitness industry. Sarah Levey, founder and CEO of Y7, noticed this void in the market when she first moved to New York City and struggled to find a yoga class that offered a good workout but still maintained the spiritual element of the practice. While simultaneously working in the fashion industry, she started a free pop-up in Williamsburg with her yogi husband Mason Levey. The few classes they offered on weekends were so popular that Levey decided to leave her job in the fashion industry and devote her career to building Y7.
Perhaps what makes Y7 so successful, and Levey so admirable, is that she is constantly seeking ways to expand the company. She has teamed up with luxury active wear brand ALALA to create the Alala + Y7 Collection; a clothing line which includes everything from hats and sports bras to sleek leggings and tanks. She releases her first book in early 2018, We Flow Hard: The Y7 Guide to Crafting Your Yoga Practice, which covers all things yoga; from the history and benefits of the practice to tips on how to integrate meditation into a modern lifestyle. As if a yoga chain, book and clothing line is not enough, Levey also works with the charity I’m ME, which aims to end the orphan cycle in Haiti.
Given all that Levey has accomplished, it is no surprise that her daily schedule is packed. Yet despite the never-ending to-do list and constant flow of emails that come with running a company, Levey remains composed and grounded. We accompanied Levey from the Y7 Soho studio, to coffee at French-Moroccan Café Gitane, to greeting her two energetic bulldogs in her serene apartment. All the while she remained calm and collected. Offering a smile to whomever she crossed paths with; from her team at Y7 to a stranger on the street, Levey never seemed too busy for anyone. After one afternoon with Levey, it became clear that her success can be largely attributed to her vivacity and big heart. Not only did we gain insight into a typical day in the life of Levey, we also learned what she’s listening to, how she stays balanced and energized, and the motivations behind her business.
What inspired you to start Y7?
I was really unsatisfied with my yoga experiences. I wanted somewhere that I could consistently sweat, get a great workout, move to music and not feel the judgement of mirrors and those around me. Voila–Y7.
Why hip-hop music?
Why not? I love music. It has a profound effect on my mood and attitude, I have playlists to cheer me up, to relax me, you name it, I have one for it. When I work out hip-hop is the thing that gets me going, and at Y7 we use the beat of the music to drive the breath and the pace of class as it reaches its peak. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s a lot easier to make it through those forearm plank holds when you have A$AP Rocky talking about his f*cking problems.
Are there any songs you’re currently practicing to that we need on our playlist?
Love N Hennessy by A. CHAL and How Many by Tee Grizzley.
What is a typical work day for you?
There isn’t one. I am currently bi-coastal traveling to LA for one week every month. This puts my NYC schedule at its max when I am in town. I try to wake up every morning at 7:30 am and get a workout in before I head into the office. From there its emails, meetings and studio walkthroughs. I always end my day on the couch with my dogs and husband though, that’s for sure.
With such a busy schedule, what dietary and fitness habits do you swear by to stay energized?
I love coffee. Duh. I also make sure to always take vitamins daily so my body is getting everything it needs even if I am running around like a crazy person. I take Sakara Life’s Probiotic every morning and night to keep my gut in check. I also take wellness pills on a daily basis (I double-up when I am traveling though). I also drink a ton of water (64 oz. a day) and try to do something active once a day. I really like food so I don’t really restrict myself a ton on that.
Do you have any self-care practices besides yoga that you use to stay balanced?
Yes – I always always take off all my makeup before bed and follow my skincare routine followed by a 10-minute sleep meditation (I use Headspace). It helps me feel grounded no matter where I am.
How do you feel that Y7 is changing perceptions about yoga and its place in the fitness industry?
I hope that Y7 is showing the world that yoga is for everybody. I always hear “oh, I’m not flexible so I won’t be good at it” or “I’m not spiritual so it’s not for me.” That is so false. Yoga is about the breath and being in the best physical, spiritual and mental space for YOU and only you, and that looks different for everyone.
You recently finished your first book and have been involved in charity work. Why is giving back so important to you?
Service has always been important to me but since starting Y7 I have done more than I ever dreamed possible. There are so many people out there who are doing the best they can with very little and I try to do what I can to give back, to inspire those around me to be better no matter how busy you get. You never know how an act of service can positively impact someone, so you just have to get out there and do it. It can be big or small – the scale of your actions doesn’t matter – its knowing that you could possibly make one person’s life better.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Don’t live in fear. It is such a toxic place of second-guessing and worrying about things that are out of your control. You can’t move forward if you are stuck here.
What are your go-to yoga poses and why?
Downward dog and forward fold. I have really tight hamstrings and hold all of my tension in my neck so both of these poses release the neck while stretching and lengthening the backs of the legs.
Do you have a dream destination to practice yoga?
Oh, I don’t know! I have never thought of that! With Beyoncé on her Tribeca rooftop? Lol is that basic?
Photography by Anna Haines