Sound Off yoga combines the idea of silent disco (a dance party in which everyone listens to music through headphones) with the meditative practice of yoga.
When you think about yoga, ideas of tranquility, peace, and meditation probably come to mind. But watching a sea of 100 people flowing from tree pose to downward dog in silence takes that concept of zen to a whole new level. Decked out in headphones and moving to music a no one else can even hear, the yogis in a Sound Off class perform synchronized sun salutations that look like mesmerizing choreography.
Starting as a simple headphones company in 2011, Sound Off Experience, created by Castel Valere-Couturier, began as a product for parties and venues that wanted to provide a music experience without the ambient noise. But in 2014 that focus shifted after Valere-Couturier offered up his headphones to yogis in a "quiet" section of a Hong Kong music festival. Amid the live music and stages, they were able to have an isolated music experience while they bent, balanced, and stretched. It was a hit, and China became the first market for "silent yoga."
"It was important that we honored the traditional yoga practice," says Valere-Couturier. "The music is an enhancement of the practice, instead of turning it into a dance party. After all, we aren't dropping Jay Z, Beyoncé, or Rihanna singing 'Work, work, work,' in the middle of the class."
In February 2015, Sound Off made its U.S. debut in New York City—inside an inflatable cube set up in Manhattan's downtown South Street Seaport neighborhood. It was the only space Valere-Couturier could lock down. "When we showed people photos, they thought it was too crazy," he says. No matter what anyone else thought about the "silent yoga," it soon became a hit, with classes quickly selling out. Now dozens of classes are held monthly in various venues around NYC, Florida, Colorado, California, Iowa, and around the world.
"I love that people of all ages and all levels can participate with ease, without having to look around because they didn't hear the teacher or without worrying about what others think," said Meredith Cameron, a yoga instructor whose practice has allowed her to teach around the world. "I see the energy of the entire room transform to a peaceful offering, and students don't seem so interested in doing fancy yoga poses," she says of Sound Off-incorporated classes.
Cameron says she believes the biggest bonus yogis get from a Sound Off class is that without the distraction of outside noise, they can go deeper in their practice. "There is a massive sense of calm to the whole experience," she says. "Sound Off really allows your mind to get quiet and you find a sense of peace. And with that, I believe, you truly connect to your lungs, which is a game changer. It calms the nervous system and allows your senses to heighten."
Most classes will hold anywhere from 30 to 100 people, but the largest Sound Off will be held this October in Sydney, Australia, where 1,200 yogis are expected to attend. Valere-Couturier has hosted classes in the Library of Congress in Washington, on a helipad in New York, and in the mountains of Colorado. Epic experiences aside, you can also find classes at a local studio or large outdoor space—because after all, in a Sound Off experience you are the one manning the volume controls, and there's no instructor yelling out poses across a gym floor or open field. "Silent yoga" is just as peaceful for you and your fellow yogis as it is for anyone passing by.