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Finding Your Rhythm

Hip Hop yoga with Erin Cook

Erin Cook—dancer, yoga instructor, and founder of Hand to Heart Yoga on Elmwood Avenue—has found a way to tap into an audience that might otherwise avoid gyms or yoga classes. She teaches a classes in Hip-Hop Yoga, which appeals to those seeking a contemporary approach to fitness. Artvoice visited Erin during one of her classes.

EC: I came up with the idea of offering Hip-Hop Yoga to the Buffalo community because it was something new, something that the Buffalo community hadn’t yet done before.

AV: What is it?

EC: Basically it’s a mix of hip-hop dance, fitness, and yoga. The class is an hour long and it starts off with traditional yoga. Students begin seated on the floor and do some stretching, and then we move into standing positions where the dance part comes in. Then there is a kind of fitness workout and we cool down with yoga at the end.

It’s a really fun and upbeat class. When you go to traditional yoga classes, which I also teach, it’s a bit slower; we take more time more in our yoga poses. In hip-hop yoga, it’s more of a cardio workout. So you’ll definitely sweat. People definitely come to it to lose weight, but also to get flexibility and build some strength, as well.

As far as the ages of students, it’s really all over the board. I get a lot of college students; I get people who are middle aged and I’ve also gotten some seniors, as well. So it’s really all over the board, and personally, I really enjoy seeing all the different faces come in, and all the different ages.

The hip-hop dance part of the class is actually inspired by Bollywood dance, so we do some poses where we’re shrugging our shoulders and making some faces. But this is not breakdancing; most of the break dancing moves are a little more challenging. I like to make it more of a beginner-slash-intermediate level so that people are coming into it not being intimidated. It’s a mix yoga and dance, all done to hip-hop music you would hear on the radio today, Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West—stuff like that. People come and relate to it and hopefully have a lot of fun.

As far as strength training for this class we’ll do a lot of yoga poses—so plank pose, for example, will build some strength. We are doing stretches as well, and side bends to lengthen the body, twists to elongate the spine. For strengthening there’s certainly elements where we’re doing push-ups and working the upper body, lunges to work the lower body, and develop core strength; we do crunches. We mix it up well with the dance and some yoga poses so you’re really starting to build that core strength in this class.

AV: Do people feel they need to really sync in with the music and be good dancers?

EC: No. No matter what the beat of the music is, you can move at your own pace. I basically say as long as you’re moving, you’re fine. You could stick to a simple side-to-side movement if you want, as long as you’re keeping your heart rate up, that’s fine—and as long as you’re having fun. People make up their own dance if they want, because some of the poses are a little challenging when you first come in and people get a bit lost. But like I said, just keep moving, stay with us, and you’re totally fine.

—AV Interview by J.M.

Hand to Heart Yoga is at 425 Elmwood Ave; phone 507-8422 or visit

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