Grammy-winning singer Chrisette Michele already mastered how to strike the right chord with her vocals.
Now, the singer-songwriter from Patchogue is offering instruction on how to strike a pose in a new soul and hip-hop yoga series at Layla’s Dance & Drum in Valley Stream.
Michele’s one-hour beginners class debuted to a packed room of a couple dozen women and children at the dance studio Oct. 10 with a soulful soundtrack of R&B and hip-hop hits from Miguel, India Arie and Kanye West.
Michele, who has been practicing yoga since her teens, became a certified instructor in Manhattan earlier this year.
“I’ve been doing yoga for a long time. Probably since I found a yoga mat at Marshall’s with my mom shopping one day,” Michele, 34, recalls. “It was just something that was really cool to do at the time. That’s how I got into it.”
She’ll be helping others get into it and find their Zen every week through the fall.
A DIFFERENT BEAT
In this class, the serene sounds of waterfalls, birds and wind are replaced with hip-hop and soul tunes from acts new and old. Jhené Aiko’s “When We Love” and ’90s hip-hop group The Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By” were played at low volume in Michele’s first class.
“I’m excited to introduce some artists that people don’t necessarily hear about often,” Michele says. “But there’ll be some Jay-Z and some Kendrick Lamar in there, too.”
The music may be different from what’s typically heard in yoga classes, but the movements are the same. Michele says she can see how some might consider soul and hip-hop yoga a stretch. Much like African-American girls doing yoga, she says.
“You don’t see it all the time. You also don’t see therapy all the time and the wellness communities in the African-American community all the time.”
Michele and studio owner Anayo Michel believe soul and hip-hop yoga is one way to introduce this form of exercise to women of color.
“I think it’s something that is important to bring to us, and I think that hip-hop and soul resonates with the community,” Michele says. “I think it’s just about bringing the community together.”
Growing up, Michele says, she had attention deficit disorder, which made it difficult for her to concentrate.
Yoga was something that helped to calm her down for school and before performances, she says.
YOGA FOR A CAUSE
Michele has hosted vocal workshops at the dance school before to benefit fundraising efforts for the students.
Proceeds from her hip-hop yoga series, which costs $20 per session or $60 a month, will be used to send children from the studio to Senegal next year to study African dance and to travel to national dance competitions. The class is open to children 7 and older when accompanied by an adult.
Closer to home, Layla’s has made a mission of eliminating financial barriers that prevent young people from gaining access to dance and music education, says Michel, 44, of Valley Stream.
Michele has been one of the studio’s biggest supporters.
“The kids at our dance school forget she is a celebrity and treat her like a favorite aunt,” the studio owner says. “They run up to her and give her hugs. When they see Chrisette, they see the love that she has for them.”
WHEN|WHERE 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Layla’s Dance & Drum, 2 East Merrick Rd., Valley Stream
INFO 646-539-8934, facebook.com/laylasdance
COST$20 per session ($60 per month)