Trap Yoga: How a D.C. Yoga Instructor is Using Trap Music To Promote Diversity in the Classroom
Interview by Jordan Snowden
At his Khepera Wellness Studio in Northeast D.C., yoga instructor and owner Brandon Copeland is setting up for his next class. To set the ambiance he turns on the speakers, which begin to fill the room with the bass-heavy 808 drum beats of his trap playlist.
For Copeland, the ‘hustle’ mentality of trap music makes it the perfect soundtrack for his physically-challenging vinyasa-style yoga classes. It’s also a method Copeland hopes will diversify the practice of yoga, helping to bring people from all walks of life who might not consider themselves to be the typical ‘yogi.’
With dreams one day of taking his Trap Yoga brand nationwide, I had the chance to speak with Copeland about his unique approach to yoga and how he’s challenging stereotypes.
How important is music to you when practicing yoga?
Brandon Copeland: Well, music and yoga don’t have to go together, so it’s not as important to me now as it was when I first started. I used music to get through certain postures and to express myself within them. Now, I don’t need it as much to feel connected to my body and the movements. I like to monitor my breathing pattern during the practice now and music that helps me do that is hard to find.
What drove you to get rid of the traditional music played when doing yoga?
BC: I found that it wasn’t enough to take me through longer sessions I began to have. Instead of practicing for an hour or 90 minutes, I began to stay after class and practice for up to four hours with friends. We often played our favorite music during these sessions. It was then that I realized the power of secular music when practicing. Plus, I got tired of the remastered versions of chants I would hear from some older white guy that already distracted me from the message. I figured if we weren’t going to be traditional past appearance we might as well not fake the funk.
Why did you decide on trap music?
BC: Forever I love Atlanta. No seriously. I grew up in Atlanta and was always motivated when listening to trap music. The spirit of making something out of nothing is captured by the music and yoga alike. I think it helped me appreciate my roots and my growth when I first listened to trap while on the mat.
Why do you believe trap music complements the practice?
BC: I think the sense of hustle that comes with the sound is what compliments certain types of practice. Of course we do our best to match the style of yoga with the music. I can think of many classes that would suffer because of trap music– our Black Girl Magic class, for instance, requires more grounding music. The trap music we use is used in faster, vinyasa-style classes meant for you to sweat and work hard. They work well together because they have the same underlying method: hustle.
How do you think trap has helped expand your practice?
BC: Trap music has helped me reach people that normally wouldn’t practice yoga. The practice of yoga goes way beyond the mat and particular poses. As an instructor it’s my job to remind people how perfect they already are. Meeting them on their level of understanding and focus was hard for me at first, especially considering I was just becoming versed in the concepts of yoga. After some years I realized that the tenants of yoga are inseparable from life, and showing people those tenants on their own terms wouldn’t ruin them or distract from them too much. Trap music helped me get my own voice and perspective on the practice out their while keeping the essence of the practice in perspective.
What was the initial reaction when you told people about your idea for Khepera?
BC: Most people were skeptical. While they would admit there are few options for black wellness activities, most people wouldn’t see why or how a space for black wellness classes would exist. Many people told me that focusing on black people as a demographic was business suicide. People really didn’t think much of the studio other than they should be supportive from the outside and observe. Since we’ve started, however, we’ve received nothing but love from our students and those happy to have a space to share with people that look and think like them.
What comments have you gotten from students after their first class?
BC: Students tell me how good they feel. I always ask, and though most students weren’t expecting to sweat or feel much in their first class, they often are happy they were unaware of what was coming. Students let me know they loved the classes and offer feedback on the sound or postures, asking for particular songs in the next class or information on how to do a particular movement. Most of the feedback we get is positive and thankful.
What are you hopes for Trap Yoga and the D.C. community?
BC: I hope to make Trap Yoga a local, national, and global brand that continues to push the perceptions of yoga. I think it’s important to spread the practice of yoga all around the city and hope to get a few more studio spaces lined up for Southeast D.C. in the coming years.