DJs, Dance Floors & Downward Dogs
Forget bright studios and gentle music – The Rogue Room offers a new type of yoga, that’s half calming meditation, half DJ-led euphoria. Rosie Hewitson heads to fabric to try it for herself...
By Rosie Hewitson
Photography by Heiko Prigge
It’s a rainy Monday evening in central London, and for the first time in 15 months a queue is forming outside Farringdon club fabric. It’s still a few weeks before the much-fêted “Freedom Day”, when the last of the UK’s lockdown restrictions will be lifted and the nation’s nightlife venues will be allowed to open once more, so the small crowd isn’t here to party.
They’re about to do a yoga class on the hallowed dance floor of one of the capital’s most famous clubs. It might seem like an odd choice to host a vinyasa flow class in a nightclub when London is blessed with an abundance of yoga studios, but this isn’t your average daily practice. Tonight’s class is hosted by The Rogue Room, a new wellness brand which aims “to merge the transcendence of yoga and the euphoric power of music”.
The brand was founded last year by Rozana Hall, a longtime yoga lover who felt that the classes on offer in the capital were missing something. “I fell in love with yoga about 10 years ago. However, I never really found a class that spoke to me as a fast-paced-music-loving urbanite,” Rozana explains. “I always felt intimidated by the average class, and that I wasn’t affluent, skinny, flexible or spiritual enough to have it as my daily ritual. It wasn’t until I walked into an early-morning Imi Wiseman class in Shoreditch that I became really hooked. The classes were beat-pumping, fast and dynamic, and I knew that I had finally found my people.”
It was in these classes that Rozana began to notice the parallels between the visceral experiences of “flow-state” yoga and the euphoric moments she’d had on the dance floor, listening to her favourite DJs. Soundtracking her own practice with electronic music, Rozana also noticed its potential to help students master the foundations of yoga. “The music forms a kind of metronome for breath and movement that can allow students to sync breath to the beat,” she explains. “Techno, specifically, really allows you to get into deeper states of meditation with no distraction from lyrics or vocals, to become introspective and develop your own flow.”
After years spent working in fashion magazines, Rozana completed her yoga teacher training last year, and quit her job to focus on creating a wellness brand that spoke to music lovers like herself. Tonight’s event, Redemption, is the brand’s inaugural class at fabric, and the first time that the iconic club has played host to an event since the country first went into lockdown 15 long, challenging months ago.
It’s also the first time I’ve set foot inside a club since February 2020, and even the sight of the metal queue barriers and staff members with walkie-talkies is a little thrilling. Before I’m led through the labyrinth of bars and staircases to fabric’s main dance floor, my phone’s camera is covered with a sticker; the select few attendees at tonight’s event will be the first to glimpse the inside of fabric since its recent refurbishment, and the venue has opted to follow in the footsteps of Berlin club Berghain by introducing a new “no cameras” policy for its impending reopening.
The class leaders warm up on the stage as I arrive at my mat at the back of the dance floor, which is almost dark save for glowing red lights on the back wall of the stage. As a semi-regular yoga-class participant, I’ve often felt self-conscious and over-exposed in the clean, white-walled, mirror-filled spaces of traditional yoga studios, where the feeling that people are watching you can make it hard to truly let go and embrace the meditative state you are trying to reach.
The darkness of the dance floor already feels more private and intimate than a typical class, something which Rozana herself mentions when I ask what made her choose to hold Redemption in a club rather than a studio space. “Yoga studios can be intimidating, and that’s often a barrier to entry for new people,” she explains. “The darkly lit venues offer another level of introspection. People aren’t distracted by what is happening in front of them – they just focus on what is happening on their own mat.”
The class tonight is being led by yoga instructor Miles Mortensen, a former DJ and music producer who already has plenty of experience working in an electronic-music environment and is described by Rozana as “a perfect match for the launch of Redemption”. His guidance will be soundtracked by a live set from DJ DaeL, “an incredible DJ who has an innate way of feeling and reading the class with sound”.
As Miles welcomes us to the class and guides us into the lotus position, DJ DaeL quietly begins the music, building the volume and complexity of his soundtrack while we launch into our first few vinyasas, flowing from downward dog into chaturanga into upward dog. Having experienced numerous vinyasa-flow classes before, I know what to expect, but even so the music proves incredibly useful in helping set the tone for each phase of the class. Much like how a good movie soundtrack expertly interprets the narrative arc of the film, DJ DaeL produces a beautiful musical arc that corresponds to the different stages we flow through, from the peaceful stillness of the breath work we do to begin, to a crescendo of sound during the middle section, where Miles instructs us through the most technically advanced poses and balances, and the euphoric finale, during which Miles slowly guides us into shavasana.
Having not attended an in-person yoga class since January 2020, I start the class worried about how feeble and inflexible I’ve probably become in the intervening months, but the music seems to push me beyond my usual comfort zone, as I draw energy from the driving beats during the most physically demanding sections, focus on the rhythm to regulate my breathing and find myself lulled into peaceful contemplation in the more meditative sections. The music fits so naturally with vinyasa flow that by the end of the class I find myself wondering why this hasn’t been done before; it’s definitely more engaging than a few whale noises playing in the background.
While it might not quite compare to the experience of writhing around in a sweaty mass of partygoers, after so many months longing for the communion of the dance floor, it’s a small glimpse of normality – and as I lie in shavasana at the end of the hour-long class, the endorphins kicking in, I feel like I’m approaching something like euphoria.