Pop-Up Yoga Creates a Fitness Community

From Breweries to Aircraft Carriers, Pop-Up Yoga is Designed to Make the Practice More Accessible and Inclusive



pop-up yoga in Norfolk

Depending on your age, you might think of yoga as a millennial fitness trend, slightly older than the Pure Barre and CrossFit craze, or as a “crunchy” counter-culture trend that gained a foothold c. 1970 with “hippies” in the U.S. right along with sprout- and granola-munching vegetarians. 

But long before yoga was associated with the twisting and turning of muscles, joints and limbs—or was considered to be “a good workout” on a par with running and cycling complete with fitness fashion—it went through thousands of years of religious, spiritual and intellectual twists and turns, both oral and written, and a dizzying array of mind-body permutations. In fact, the word for this Hindi practice still possesses a variety of meanings. The history of yoga from the Indus Valley to the coast of Virginia is complex and dynamic and the term has meant—and still does—many different things to many different people.

Yoga’s complex web of cultural influences over time has made it a living, breathing—emphasis on the breathing—organism whose reach is broad and encompassing. Though early Vedic practitioners of yoga were not rolling out their mats in the Indus Valley—where yoga originally meant, among other things, “preparing for battle” or “rushing into battle"—the fact that we do so today with the opposite of a warring mentality is testament to how deep is this well from which we modern day yogis drink.

Though we may be experiencing somewhat of a yoga bubble, this practice has been around for some 5,000 years and likely isn’t going anywhere. This flexible, if you’ll pardon the pun, practice accommodates a wide range of styles, philosophies, goals and emphases, not to mention body types. Thanks, in part, to the entrepreneurial American spirit, once yoga exploded onto the America fitness scene with renewed vigor in the last decade or so, it wasn’t long before hot yoga—practicing in a space with the heat at about 105 degrees and the humidity in the 40-degree range–seemed tame. Aerial yoga, dog yoga or “doga,” goat yoga (yep, that’s right), various yoga hybrids like yoga-Pilates or yoga-breakdancing and, in some states, cannabis yoga—have all developed their followings.

Once the purview of retail stores, galleries and restaurants, pop-ups are one of the latest iterations of yoga. But, rather than marketing to a savvy customer base who can find your business before you move on, pop-up yoga is designed to make yoga more accessible and inclusive. Venues run the gamut and, in our area, include the likes of aircraft carriers.

Nicole Law, creator of The Rooted Hook, has parlayed her fitness, food and health and beauty passions and corporate experience into a business that embraces the pop-up fitness movement, though she also consults and provides corporate health and wellness services. A licensed aesthetician, Law spent 11 years in the food industry where her role as a leader of change management developed her interest in and knowledge about personal growth and development. Most recently she worked in fitness industry marketing but she stepped back to reflect on her professional direction.

Because she thrives on playing the role of student, she determined that her next business venture would not be about selling herself, but showcasing others, helping them reach more people and enjoy more exposure. In response, The Rooted Hook was born. As Law explains, “rooted” is a reference to “staying true to who you are” and developing a strong foundation, while “hook” suggests the “freedom and opportunity to learn from others.”

pop-up yoga at Commonwealth Brewing
Commonwealth Brewing

yoga at The Shack
The Shack

yoga at the Sky Bar at the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront
Sky Bar at the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront

Working mostly to date in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Chesapeake, The Rooted Hook offers yoga, barre, CrossFit and more at least twice a week in breweries and bars like Commonwealth Brewing, Sky Bar at the Hilton, Smartmouth Pilot House and The Shack in Virginia Beach; Grain in Norfolk; and Big Ugly Brewing in Chesapeake. For $18/person and their own mats, pop-up yogis receive a yoga class and a drink ticket. 

There are about as many styles and philosophies of yoga as there are craft beers and cocktails, and Law’s approach celebrates them all, creating community with a regular following and newcomers alike. Representing all levels of experience, they practice together, hang out afterwards for a sip still in their yoga clothes and, in the process, create relationships and lasting friendships. Says Law, “It’s very rewarding … and we’re having a blast.”

Chris Neikirk, co-owner of Smartmouth Pilot House, who is in charge of community engagement, finds the pop-up fitness concept great for business. She reached out to Law based on the four-year success of the weekly pop-up fitness experiences in Norfolk’s Smartmouth location. With a Virginia Beach facility three to four times larger, which features an outdoor patio and both a south and a north tasting room separated by garage-style doors, the Pilot House seemed a natural fit. “It brings in a crowd that doesn’t know we’re here,” says Neikirk. Her tasting room manager estimates that about half of the pop-up crowd has never been to the Pilot House “and didn’t even think they like beer.” But, with at least 17 different styles on draft on any given day, says Neikirk, “We can pretty much find a beer for anyone.”

The Rooted Hook yoga

pop-up yoga in Hampton Roads
Nicole Law of The Rooted Hook and Katie Escobar, yoga director for Inlet Fitness,
teach pop-up yoga classes throughout Coastal Virginia.

Katie Escobar, the yoga director for Inlet Fitness, has taught for The Rooted Hook in three locations, and says of the brewery-bar pop-up experience, “It is great; I love it. It’s been a lot of fun.” While Katie herself is a non-drinker—though not anti-alcohol—she is a fan of the concept. “It’s an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone … and connect with people.” She finds that, among its other benefits, it makes yoga “less pretentious.” 

Her nine years of experience allow her to “switch it up really quickly,” as when an energetic pre-July 4 crowd at one event necessitated a change in plan. Though she went in wanting to relax the students, “that wasn’t the vibe.” So, since she “couldn’t pretend it wasn’t loud,” she focused on sun salutations and yin yoga to help “ground” the participants. Yin is a series of passive postures or asanas that are typically held for up to three to five minutes to lengthen and strengthen the connective tissue while also balancing “yang,” the changing, moving aspects of things.

Meggie Steight, a long-time yoga practitioner who just completed her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training with Escobar, enjoyed the “laid back vibe” of the pop-up yoga class she attended at Pilot House. She appreciated the opportunity to meet some new people of varying experience levels and ages and snap some photos over a beer. As for the energetic crowd, she said, “You would expect the noise,” and it actually helped accomplish one of the goals of yoga: to learn to “tune-out the outside distractions.” Yin, she believes, is an excellent choice for a mixed-level course because “it allows you to focus on your breath practice” and is therefore accessible to more people. She found the experience “fun and different” and looks forward to both taking and teaching more pop-up yoga classes. 

“I think it’s going to stick around,” Steight predicts.

For more information and upcoming opportunities to get your pop-up yoga on, visit TheRootedHook.com and search Hampton Roads “pop-up yoga” online.

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