Ten years ago, when Gabrielle Roberts attended her first yoga class, she walked away discouraged—feeling that she couldn’t connect to the instructor and did not feel the emotional revival the class had promised. Years later, after being reinspired to try yoga by finding an Instagram account of the first Black woman she had ever seen practicing yoga—Roberts saw herself in the woman. She has since set out with a drive to change stigmas, and proving that yoga can be a full body revival through hip hop.
“I signed up for teacher training from seeing a girl on Instagram. She was the first black woman that I’ve ever seen do yoga,” Roberts said. “And I was like ‘Oh I want to be like her.’”
“Throughout training it was amazing, I completely turned a new leaf as a person. I felt so good. I started falling more in love with myself.” Roberts said. “I wanted to see a space like that, where other people like me can have the opportunity to experience what I experienced.”
Roberts now owns Minneapolis’ first and only hip-hop yoga studio, 612 Jungle. 612 Jungle is also the only black-owned studio in Minnesota. It was first established in 2018, with a mission of inviting people to let loose and feel their body while grooving to hip hop jams, but the class is still grounded in foundational yoga techniques.
The origin of the studio’s name, 612 Jungle, was an easy equation. When planning a getaway retreat, Roberts’ first intuition is to go someplace tropical— thus to Roberts, the jungle is associated with relaxation and adventure— what the studio was destined to be.
Seven different formats of classes are offered at 612 Jungle, all of which have the option of either in-person or virtual attendance. Beginner classes focus on yoga’s sun salutation positions and harder class sessions bring on the sweat and dance beats.
The studio’s music choices are what make the space unique and upbeat, which is the style Roberts prefers when practicing yoga. “Sometimes calming music gives me more anxiety,” Roberts said. Through conversations between friends, she found that a common theme was that yoga can be more fun when experienced with fast-paced music.
Roberts trained under Vinyasa Yoga and has completed a 200-hour Yoga Certification. “I was trained in a free-flow style that is very different, look at it as a radical yogi— breaking all the rules, loud music, bass bumping. The heat is up.” The studio’s instructors encouraged class attendees to let out their individuality and embrace the freedom and vibe of the session. Roberts wanted to bring her version to the community.
“The music is there to intentionally drive people,” Roberts said. “One thing that connects people no matter where you are, is music.”Most of the studio’s classes can be heard playing hip hop or rap, meanwhile, slower-paced classes incorporate the genre of rhythm n’ bass.
When it comes to the studio’s most popular classes, Roberts suggests that someone more familiar with yoga try a session of “TRAPPINhard” and beginners can start with “TRAPPINlite.” An instructor walks the class through one routine a few times to help the group get the hang of the movements before cranking up the music. “It's all about the breath. The beats are there to push you, encourage you to keep going, and give you something to connect to. The free flow nature is about letting go of the aesthetic and focusing on how it feels for their body. Everybody's body is different and we celebrate that here,” Roberts said.
A slower-paced class, “SOULIT,” is accompanied by a rhythm n’ bass playlist— featuring artists such as Alicia Keys and Beyoncé. The biggest difference between this class and others at the studio is that the group is told to close their eyes the entire class. “It’s really cool to shift your focus inward and not be worried about what someone looks like next to you,” Roberts said.
Roberts also wanted to accommodate those who may not be as inclined toward the free flow style of a yoga class. “Hustle + Flow” is the studio’s class that includes the most instructor guidance.
The 612 crew vary in yoga style preferences and personalities— all part of Roberts’ plan to make the studio inclusive and welcoming to all. “I really set out to create a space that was affordable, accessible, and relatable to my community,” Roberts said. Most instructors were hired on through Roberts’ teacher training course held at 612 Jungle. Two training sessions are held each year (spring and fall), where trainees can complete a 200 Hour Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training program incorporating vinyasa and yin to become Yoga Alliance certified.
The studio has built a like-minded community of free-flow yogis in Minneapolis’ Uptown area, but that isn't the end of it. Robert’s goal for the studio is to see it expand in the Twin Cities and eventually franchise—“creating this Jungle-esque vibe in every city and area code that I can,” Roberts said.
To learn more, visit 612jungle.com. 2905 Garfield Ave, Minneapolis.(612) 615-8614.