By Jerome Stuart Nichols
LONDON – Yoga is a centuries-old discipline that promises to help people find permanent inner peace. Voguing is a decades old dance that promises to help people steal spotlight, slay like Pepper LaBeija. Together, they make Voga, the fiercest form of yoga yet.
“The purpose is to find your inner vogue,” London-based Voga creator Juliet Murrell says. “Once you’re in your Voga outfit, in the studio and feeling the beats, you’ll feel fierce.”
The thumping soundtrack is one of the most important parts of Voga. Of course Madonna’s 1990 queer anthem “Vogue” is at the top of the list, but the soundtrack is a master class in some of the funkiest pop, disco and dance tracks. With songs like Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover” and Wildcat’s “Perpetrating,” things are sure to get groovin’.
As with most people, Murrell first found out about the underground voguing battle scene from the fierce grittiness of queer cult classic “Paris is Burning.” That film inspired her to explore said culture and ultimately develop the sickening mash-up known as Voga.
“After being inspired by Jenny Livingston’s documentary film, I went with my boyfriend to see a battle with Anna Ninja – lineage of Willi Ninja – which was one of the best, most mind-blowing experiences I’ve had,” Murrell says. “I was hooked! I was inspired to combine my love of yoga, music and dance without losing the holistic and health giving benefits which is at the heart of my practice and experience of yoga.”
While voguing may look simple, it’s really an intricate series of movements and poses adopted from fashion models in the pages of Vogue, old Hollywood glam and the hottest catwalks of the world. That powerful high-fashion ethos translates into a remarkably fun yoga experience.
“In Voga, the emphasis is on the hands and the powerful feeling you can experience through the precise execution and linear alignment of angular hand and body movements, especially at high speed,” she says. “It’s fun, expressive and energetic and leaves you feeling fabulous from the inside as well as the outside. At the very least it equips you with a few moves for the dance floor.”
Voga also incorporates some elements of waacking, a form of street dance born out of ’70s disco – the lesser-known play cousin to voguing.
The moves are from catwalks, but the fashions are straight out of ’80s club life. There’s just something about an elegant lime-green spandex bodysuit that really helps you find your zen.
“Voga incorporates my love of all things ’80s, including fashion,” Murrell says. “I encourage total freedom of expression and an extravagant display of leopard prints, spandex and anything else that takes your fancy. I welcome ballroom eleganza, boas and Elizabeth Taylor fashionistas, but you got to be able to move your body.”
Despite its playful appearance, Voga is actually a really good workout.
“Voga has all the health benefits of yoga and more. It gives you a challenging yet stress-free, full-body, breath-focused cardiovascular workout, which benefits the whole body right down to your hands and feet. It increases blood circulation, flexibility and alignment.”
Traditional yoga and the Hatha version usually taught in the western world are great for flexibility and stress relief. Unfortunately, they can also be extremely boring and stuffy. Voga, on the other hand, is anything but stuffy. It helps keep your booty fit while teaching you to channel your inner fashionista, and it’s just a matter of time before this new yoga craze moves overseas.
“Toning the tush is a guarantee – there’s lots of lunges and warrior-style goddess poses,” she says. “There’s also a focus on the direction of the face – known as drishti in yoga – and Madonna-style arm gestures around the face. It helps to give voguers a new awareness and emphasis to their faces – which ultimately leads to serving great face!”