While some people need a little liquid confidence to approach the cute guy at the bar, Eli Walker encourages the loosened-up, boozy tactic for her Yoga practice, Drunk Yoga. A few months ago, she was at a bar in Manhattan with some friends when she told the owner she was a yoga teacher. He immediately joked that he should try yoga but could barely touch his toes. It's a common flexibility struggle that many non-yogis can attest to, but after a few drinks, the bar owner proceeded to do the impossible - and bend right down to touch his toes.
"I guess I can touch my toes when I'm drunk," he said, to which Eli responded, "Well, then let's do drunk yoga!" She laughed it off that night, but it didn't take long to realize that the bar owner was onto something.
One of the main reasons people avoid the yoga studio is because they're embarrassed of their lack of flexibility, but like every strength-building workout, you've got to start somewhere. And if there's anything that gives you the confidence to do something you've never done before without inhibitions, it's alcohol. We know what you're thinking, and this isn't a "get super drunk on tequila and try standing on your head" kind of madness. It's structured, stimulating, and not nearly as intoxicating as that situation sounds.
"Drunk Yoga, which involves adding wine to a beginner yoga sequence in class that takes place in a bar, was just another idea I had to make yoga more accessible and less intimidating to a certain population who might not otherwise try yoga at all," Eli told POPSUGAR.
The class takes place at different bars in Manhattan, and while the event runs for around 90 minutes, the actual vinyasa portion is only 30-45 minutes. Yoga inside a bar sounds super chill, which it is, but Eli's class is organized down to the minute. Upon entering the bar, Eli greets clients, sets them up on their mats, and pours them a glass of wine. Although the class doesn't start for 30 minutes, that time is meant for sipping and getting to know the other timid students.
"I want it to feel like a social gathering to establish a sense of community and allow them to feel safe in letting their guards down," she shared. "Having a glass of wine together while barefoot on a yoga mat in the back of a bar makes people feel happy - as if at a party or a celebration. It's subversive and titillating."
Because at the end of the day, everyone is there for the same reason: to step outside of their comfort zone and find their inner yogi. Eli explained that the positions are incredibly basic, so just a little liquid confidence and a few simple poses can hopefully give a previously reserved student the desire to try yoga in a typical booze-free setting.
These are the class "rules": "If you lose your balance and I see you, you need to take three sips. If you spill any wine on your neighbor's mat, you need to give them a compliment. If you take a sip out of turn (without my instruction), you need to give me a compliment. No one is allowed to refill their glass in the middle of class. But, if they spill their wine (hey, it happens), and they need to refill, they must do a yoga pose WHILE pouring the wine (Tree pose is the popular choice)," Eli said.
But it's not only after spills that the wine is incorporated into the poses, as Eli will often pause students during a Half-Lift, Baby Cobra, or Eagle Wrap to take a sip. She'll also have students reach for their glasses in front of their feet during a Seated Forward Fold. "What I have found is that integrating the wine-drinking into this basic class encourages my students to laugh, have fun, and not take themselves (or yoga) so seriously," she said. "Taking a sip in the middle of the postures also demands a level presence and focus, which is fun to practice and explore."
Drinking before exercising obviously raises some eyebrows, as mine immediately furrowed the first time I heard about the concept. However, Eli assured me that students will not consume more than two glasses of wine throughout the class, which she has found to be "the perfect amount of wine to help them feel healthfully lubricated and spirited during the entire experience." While some students opt for less, Eli said that if a student chooses to drink more than two glasses, it can be difficult for them to focus and get the most out of the experience. Water is provided for the students and encouraged to drink before, during, and after the class.
Every student's tolerance is different, but Eli said they "haven't found that one to two glasses of wine throughout a 90-minute event including 45 minutes of beginner yoga has been too taxing on anyone's immediate health. In fact, I encourage my students to exercise caution and attend to their own needs, and if they feel they need a hydration break, they are more than welcome to take it."
Cheers to having fun and testing your flexibility after a few sips, because Eli said it best: "When you're playing with your body in time and space in a new way, surrounded by friends in a bar with a glass of wine, it's hard not to enjoy yourself."