How Sarah Levey Built a Yoga Empire Fit for Millennials

Sarah Levey in one word? Real. The entrepreneur, along with husband Mason Levey, is the founder of Y7, a yoga studio that boasts nine locations across two coasts. But this isn’t your average Ashtanga. Y7 has given your everyday practice a millennial update, getting your heart pumping with bass heavy, speaker-bumping hip-hop beats. On top of their seven locations in NYC, they’ve just welcomed a new Silverlake location to the LA family (West Hollywood is already on lock). There is really no stopping their reign; the girlboss already has an exclusive collaboration with Alala and now even a book under her belt. COOLS sat down with Sarah to talk shop and learn just what gets her Vinyasa flowing.

COOLS: How did you get into yoga? How did your relationship with the practice start?

Sarah Levey: I tried really hard to like yoga but just couldn’t get into it; I really wanted to do it, I love everything it stands it for, I just couldn’t get into it at all. I practiced on and off for five years and then just completely stopped. That’s where it started. My relationship to yoga was not super intense, it wasn’t in depth, I was not even certified until after we started this studio. Everything is what I [searched for] in a studio – the no mirrors, the darkness, the heated room, the quicker flows – all that I wanted. I wanted a workout, a place I could get enough of the yoga practice but not be overwhelmed by Sansa and Dharma and things I did not fully understand as a beginner

COOLS: Were you interested in yoga more for fitness or was it spiritual aspect that drew you to it?

SL: A little bit of both; definitely more physical in the beginning. But as I practiced more and more, definitely the spiritual aspect is important to me now.

COOLS: Have you ever taught classes?

SL: I’ve never taught. What makes us a little different is our experience is about the client, which was super important to me. I would never want anyone to come here wanting to take my class or wanting to take a specific teacher, its about their experiences and what they want, what they want out of their practice. I want it to remain focused on the client, so I don’t teach. 

Y7 Silverlake

COOLS: When did you open your first studio?

SL: We “popped-up” in July 2013 and we opened our first studio in September 2013. 

COOLS: What has been the process in growing as a business? You started as a pop-up…

SL: It’s been really crazy. Up until [the opening of] our third studio, Mason, my husband and cofounder and I both had full-time jobs. The first month we had classes, a pop-up, everything was free, it was just like for fun, that’s really all it was. It’s something we were both really passionate about, finding a place for people who never consider themselves traditional yogis, to have a place to come and explore our practice, we didn’t know it was going to be a thing but we are really happy it is. 

We had actually never done any marketing or traditional PR. We do now as we have multiple locations, but for the first two years everything was via Instagram, that’s where we started to use it to announce when our Hip-Hop Wednesdays were going to be, all information was posted there. It’s been really impactful for us, in terms of how you reach people, especially when you kind of budget yourself when self-funded, so there was no money for that.

COOLS: Did you feel a lot of support from the community of the followers that you had?

SL: Yes, they’re amazing, anytime we do something where you have to comment or vote for an artist, everyone is so great. I love it; it’s heartwarming to have a community you cannot physically touch or see all the time, but to feel that on social channels is really cool.

Y7 Silverlake

COOLS: What are some of the challenges you have faced?

SL: Maintaining consistency throughout the classes, that’s really important to us. [If] a client is normally a 7am weekday mornings and they oversleep one day, I want to make sure they have the exact same experience that they would coming in at 7am or if they come at noon. Every class is held to a certain caliber, and everyone is expected to meet that. That’s why we have a teaching team that’s amazing. That’s really important to me; it’s challenging when you have several locations, and we have about 64 teachers across the country. It’s a lot and that’s super important to the brand. If we’re hiring the right people, and we have great people on our team, it’s not that bad.

COOLS: You have a distinct vibe in everything that you do; where did the hip-hop come from?

SL: It’s just the music that we love, what I personally love to workout to, and what motivates me. We use the beats of the songs to kind of drive the breath, so I think it’s a little more fun to practice to. Why not? Everyone always asks that, but it wasn’t a huge decision, it’s what we love and it’s worked out for us, No one should feel intimidated into looking like the person looking next to you. It’s so different too, it’s what we are trying to get across with the Hip-Hop is the hook that gets everyone In, then once you realize the different practices, and you get more comfortable in the room, that’s what really makes people stay.

COOLS: Is there a culture that you’re trying to create?

SL: Our culture is that of inclusiveness. There’s a lot of stuff that’s going on in the world. What we’re trying to create here is a safe space. We talk about enough with our friends, family, coworkers; there are always conversations in our personal lives. No matter what you believe in or what background you come from, what religion you are, this is a safe space. No one is ever going to push his or her views or feelings on you. This is a place for people to grow in their own right, however that may be. Everyone is welcome, that’s really what we are trying to push here. It can be your first class or 500th class, it doesn’t really matter; you want to be here because you want to do something for yourself.

Y7 Silverlake

COOLS: Are you going to expand beyond LA and New York at all?

SL: Yes, but it’s very difficult, we definitely want to. We have our eye on San Francisco, Chicago, so hopefully soon.

COOLS: I’m sure you have a slew of diehard clients who have been here from the beginning, is that a tight-knit group of people?

SL: Yes, and it’s amazing, especially with the studio opening, it’s been really cool to give them this amazing space, because the studio we were in was in a basement, very small, humble beginnings, nothing fancy. So we’re so excited to give this space to them, I always laugh because I can’t believe they stuck with us in this weird space that flooded a couple of times. It was only 300 square feet with only 8 people, and we grew out of that pretty quickly, for 6 months we were at that space. There are a lot of things we’ve had to deal with and people have been so patient and so great.

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