Are Nightclubs the New Fitness Studio?

With more classes than ever held in clubs, detox-to-retox is reaching new heights.

Grip the Mat

A Grip the Mat event. Photo provided

Ashley Braun and Christy Skarulis were tired of watching 40 people take a yoga class together, then bolt out of the studio as soon as the last ohm faded.

They embraced that frustration and used it to found Grip the Mat, a social yoga company that holds classes in nightclubs, galleries, warehouses, and more—anywhere but a studio. The company’s first (sold out) Boston event will be held tomorrow at Down Nightclub, and it also operates in Los Angeles and D.C.

“We took yoga out of the studio to make it more approachable, and add some excitement to it, to shake up the practice and help people break up their routine,” Braun says.

Grip the Mat is far from alone in the burgeoning nightclub fitness world. Daybreaker holds its now-infamous sober, early morning, dance parties in clubs. Stage hosted last month’s Jay and Bey yoga. Art-slash-nightlife spot Oberon holds regular rave yoga classes during the summer. The list goes on.

Braun and Skarulis say they gravitated toward clubs and other non-traditional spaces because they appeal to many clients in a way that traditional gyms can’t. “It definitely attracts a motley crew sometimes. We have a lot of beginners, people who are kind of intimidated by the studio but always wanted to give it a try,” Skarulis says. “Bringing the yoga practice out of a studio and into a space like a nightclub, it makes your yoga practice more applicable.”

Radha Agrawal, cofounder of Daybreaker, agrees that clubs provide the casual vibe that many gyms lack. “Traditional fitness studios and gyms are more utilitarian than they are an experience,” she says. “One of our core values—besides wellness, of course—is self expression, and we like to create environments that allow people to fully self-express.”

Then, of course, there’s the element of fun, of seamlessly integrating fitness into social lives. Many Grip the Mat classes involve some type of after-party, whether it’s brunch, cocktails, or a wine tasting. And though the detox-to-retox theme may seem contradictory, the cofounders insist it’s just a more realistic way to approach fitness.

“We’re trying to promote balance,” Braun says. “We think it’s fine to have a glass of wine and practice yoga, or meditate and have a cocktail. That’s how we live our lives.”