My interpretation of the seminal text of yoga, the Bhagavad Gita, is that it’s about Arjuna speaking to Krishna (God) about warfare and how yoga can be helpful with literal and figurative personal struggles. Hip hop is also often about battles whether they be social challenges, MC/B-Boy face-offs or metaphorical situations similar to Krishna on the battle field.
I’ve enjoyed the reactions of students in class when I play full hip hop playlists. Seeing mid-40s White women in Warrior 2 mouth the lyrics to “California Love” is hip hop yoga bliss. So is experiencing rowdy young men joining Kanye in chanting, “Hurry up with my damn croissants,” invigorating the whole room to ball harder throughout practice. The uplifting energy and passion. The elevation of Spirit through movement and music.
Most comments after my hip hip classes are positive. Yet occasionally, students bristle. One student said, “This is not yoga music.”
For many of my students and me, hip hop IS yoga music. If American culture can take the India out of yoga and make it about long, lean, modelesque women (which is cool with me), then hip hop heads can rock Vinyasa to loud beats and lyrics from the streets.
One common definition of yoga is union. When I hear most Kirtan and mellow woo woo songs, I feel alienated. When I hear Kanye and Wu-Tang, I feel united with Spirit. Yoga is hip hop.