The VICE Channels

'Dance Music, Power Ballads, and Sanskrit Chants': Getting High with Rocket Yoga

Aug 9 2016 10:05 AM
'Dance Music, Power Ballads, and Sanskrit Chants': Getting High with Rocket Yoga

Prepared for a workout that you literally have to bend over backwards for? Rocket yoga wants to take your flexibility to outer space—and beyond.


It's one of those moments where real world meets satire. I'm outside Shoreditch fitness studio Frame, wondering whether there's enough space to squeeze past the women crowding to taking selfies.

Read more: What Happens When You Do Yoga While Attempting to Float on Open Water

Their reason? A ten-foot high piece of (commissioned) street art. In bold, bright primary colours, the words shout: "Be Bad Until You're Good And Be Good Until You're Great." Sadly for their selfies, the effect has been dulled slightly by heavy tagging from local graffiti artists.

Frame opened in 2009, pushing at the forefront of a then-novel approach to fitness. Exercise, decided Frame founders Pip Black and Joan Murphy, should be positive, accessible, and most importantly fun. On the brand's Instagram account, pictures of smoothies, avocado on toast, and salads rendered in high contrast nestle next to images of happy customers (known as "Framers") beaming their way through grueling workouts. Punctuating the heavily filtered posts are flippant slogans about fitness, like "Don't let anyone tell you leggings aren't pants. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life."

Frame's blog features collaborations with of-the-moment brands and influencers; healthy cooks Hemsley & Hemsley appear regularly, as does Radio 1 DJ Alice Levine and TV presenter and model Laura Jackson. Frame have clearly worked hard to differentiate themselves from the average exercise studio.

Arguably, they've succeeded. Frame has spread across London from Shoreditch to Queen's Park, Victoria, and King's Cross, transforming a single studio into a tongue-in-cheek brand that has even entered athleisure with a collaboration with Whistles. But would the Rocket Yoga class live up to the brand's carefully constructed marketing hype?

Firstly, a word or two on Rocket Yoga. In the words of Frame: "Rocket gets you moving, sweating, breathing and FLOWING like a traditionalist yogi who likes to break a few rules. Think 'heels in church.' If you want to get stretchier, fitter, calmer, longer, hotter and happier get on The Rocket."

Developed by Larry Schultz in San Francisco during the 80s, rocket yoga was created under the guidance of Ashtanga yoga founder Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. It is, naturally, derived from Jois' Ashtanga. While the former is broken up into four levels or "series" of increasingly levels of difficulty, Rocket disrupts this regimented formula by combining and reworking the primary and intermediate series and throwing in key postures from the advanced third and fourth series. It basically involves a lot of being upside down.

Fun fact: Rocket is so called because allegedly Bob Weir of psychedelic rock band The Grateful Dead claimed that it "gets you there faster." It's unclear, however, whether "there" means enlightenment or a five-minute long handstand.

Before I got into yoga, I was one of those people who dismissed it as something way too easy to count as exercise. If that sounds like you, try Rocket. But if you don't see the allure of a perfectly aligned headstand, you might not be Rocket's biggest fan.

In Frame's Rocket Yoga class, there are around 30 people, 95 percent comprised of women in their 20s and 30s wearing trendy sportswear. An entire wall is mirrored, and plant pots suspended by red ropes are dotted around the room. The studio itself is near Shoreditch High Street, and every few minutes, the sound of an overground train can be heard above the playlist of dance music, power ballads, and Sanskrit chants.

As the class begins, instructor Daniela Olds tells us to move our mats into a circle, with her own mat at the center. It's a small change, but it immediately creates a sense of intimacy.

Although Rocket traditionally runs in three sequences with increasing levels of complexity, the format is less rigid at Frame than at most other studios, with teachers mixing sequences depending on the level of the class. Olds begins the class with pranyama (yogic breathing exercises) before moving through sun salutation sequences at a grueling pace. I'm sweating within minutes.

We repeat the flows multiple times, adding on more poses each time, so it's pretty straightforward to work out what is coming next. Then, it's on to standing and seated postures. As with Ashtanga yoga, Rocket classes have a strong focus on the rhythm of your breath, which distracts slightly from the complexity of the poses.

Still, it is undoubtedly hard, requiring enough strength to do more bicep push-ups (also known as chaturanga in Sanskrit) than I can count during the 90 minute class, enough flexibility to get into the splits (hanumanasana), and enough humility to laugh when falling over. By the time we get to backbends, the mirrored wall has steamed up from all the sweat; my palms sliding down it as I practice dropping back from a standing position into an upside-down pose.

Read more: Stretching the Limits at Reformer Pilates With a Movable Torture Rack

Despite Rocket's reputation for difficulty, Olds' class is suitable for anyone with a basic understanding of yoga. At the end of the class, everyone seems exhausted by the time we lie down on our mats for savasana, or corpse pose, having performed—or at least attempted—some of yoga's most lusted-after postures including headstands and handstands. Exhausting and exhilarating: much like clinging onto a moving rocket.


Light & Free is a delicious new range of Greek-style yoghurts from Danone. Each pot contains 30% fewer calories than most other full-fat fruit yoghurts available, zero percent added sugar, zero percent fat and is packed with luxurious pieces of real fruit making them even more irresistible. Click here to discover the range.

This article was presented by Danone and was created independently from Broadly's editorial staff.


More from VICE

The Latest