In our Zen Things I Hate About You series, we’re exploring all the wellness trends and practices that some of us are maybe a little skeptical about, and offering a peek behind the curtain. We caught up with Rachelle Wintzen – owner of the dreamy Leslieville studio, Chi Junky – to find out what we can expect from her hip hop yoga class at the “Zen Things I Hate About You” event on June 4 (hint: it involves Bey and Drake), her favorite yoga practice, and how a career in A-List NYC nightlife inspired the name of her studio.
Read on and don’t forget to buy your Zen Things I Hate About You ticket to experience Rachelle Wintzen’s hip hop yoga class in person!
Photo by Maria Vasserman of MS Vision
Well TO Do: We are so thrilled that you’re going to be leading a hip hop yoga session at our Zen Things I Hate About You event! We know you were already setting your sights on starting a class like that at Chi Junky so tell us a bit about why that interested you.
Rachelle Wintzen: First off, I am so excited to be leading a hip hop yoga class with WTD! This event is totally my jam and I just love the tag “Zen as F*ck!”
As a former dancer, music is such a big part of what I do. When I hear great songs I envision movement. Music can create such an emotional response, it can also motivate and inspire us. There is such a feeling of empowerment when you combine movement to music; the rush of energy, emotion and adrenaline is an amazing experience and one that I live for.
Hip Hop yoga, for me, was inspired by Y7 in NYC. They have a whole studio that is just yoga classes to hip hop music…genius! Good music, good flows, good vibes. Expect to see this at Chi Junky very soon and launching at the WTD event!
WTD: Without giving too much away, can you tell our readers what they can expect from a hip hop yoga practice? Are we doing downward dogs to Snoop Dogg? Posing to P. Diddy?
RW: It’s gonna be goood… I’ll take it back old school, then we will go hard and then zen it out. You can expect to sweat hard and work hard without taking it too seriously. The idea is to feel good and have fun while doing something great for your body and mind. The music will be turned way up, think P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Beyonce Lemonade album to Drake to Mase to Tupac to Biggie… it’s going to be epic!
WTD: How did you start your studio, Chi Junky? And how did you come up with that fantastic name?
RW: I always knew I would own my own business, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. After two years of teaching yoga on an island in Central America, I was ready to return to the grind of the city life. It was either go back to NYC or move home to Toronto. I chose Toronto, as I knew I wanted to open a yoga and wellness studio and T.O. was more accessible for many reasons.
In 2014 my vision became a reality when I opened the studio. The name…Chi (pronounced chee not chai) is the Chinese medicine word for ‘energy’ and Junky is from a book by William Boroughs called ‘Junky’ about an addict living in NYC. As someone who worked in A-list NYC nightlife for almost a decade, I was addicted to everything nightlife had to offer and then some. After a year of quitting that life cold turkey and drinking a TON of green juice, I became addicted to feeling good and thought: why can’t addiction have a positive connotation. Hence Chi Junky was born in NYC in 2010. A junky for something good, my tag line is get addicted and Chi Junky literally means energy junkie.
WTD: How do you choose the types of classes to offer?
RW: Everything started from a lack I saw in the yoga industry… a demand that needed to be fed. I started the studio offering small class sizes of 6 people, last year I expanded and now cap it at 14 people to create a boutique and intimate feel for the best yoga experience possible.
The instructors and classes are curated and customized to what the studio community craves. We take song requests and class requests so everything feels custom built and is exactly what you need on that day. My signature class is Sweat Flow, which is loud sweaty and a fun challenge where we work hard but don’t take it too seriously, cause life is already serious enough! The yin to my yang is Whitney, our Hatha teacher who delivers super chill classes called Move to Soothe and we also have our signature candlelight restorative and yin classes with essential oil massage… which is to die for!
WTD: Do you have a favorite type of yoga to practice? Do you have a favorite type to lead?
RW: My jam is challenging vinyasa flow classes with emphasis on great music; it’s what I love to practice and teach. A good 90-minute practice for myself is key. The mat is where I clear my head, it is my moving meditation and I come to feel good no matter what chaos I am dealing with in life – as a business owner there’s always something going on!
WTD: The concept of our event is removing the stigma attached to a lot of things that people are skeptical about or find “woo woo” about wellness, specifically meditation and yoga. What was one thing that you were once skeptical about in this field or that you maybe still question?
With the world of social media there is a lot of smoke and mirrors, not just in our industry but all over. No one posts what the bad days look like or when your class is empty. I think there needs to be more awareness of the bad days, cause even the ‘bad’ days are good days, it is all a part of the journey. The tough stuff makes us who we are and creates growth… growth is strength. For the most part, all we are exposed to all these seemingly perfect images and personalities. I feel like sometimes it gives off the concept of perfection when there is no such thing as being perfect. Let’s bring awareness to it all, the good, the ‘bad’ and show the whole journey not just the filtered perfection.
WTD: What’s the most frequent excuse that you find people have about why they don’t practice yoga (i.e. “I don’t want to chant om”, “I don’t bend that way”, “I need a harder workout”)?
RW: All of the above used to be common excuses I would hear on a the regular, but yoga has become so mainstream and so accessible that I find more and more people are starting to realize the benefits and importance of adding yoga into their wellness/fitness routines, which makes me happy!
WTD: For someone who has never done yoga, what’s the best way to get started?
RW: I would find a great class geared to yoga fundamentals or a beginner/level 1 class. Learn how these movements work in your body; it isn’t about looking like the picture in the book but how can we make this pose feel good in our bodies. Yoga is meant to alleviate suffering not create more. If you are brand new to yoga start with the basics, like learning to breath and understanding the alignment in basic postures. Classes like hatha, yin, restorative are a great way to begin. Avoid going to your first class with that one friend or your partner who’s been practicing for years and telling you must come to this class! This is a recipe for frustration and potential injury. I see this scenario all the time!