Tom Schey Is Reinventing The Hottest L.A. Yoga Trend You'll Undress For
Real Estate Developer
Big Time Lawyer
No one would’ve thought careers in two of the most competitive industries would prepare Tom Schey to start his own chain of…yoga studios.
But don’t get it twisted—this wasn’t a retirement move for Schey, and he’s only getting hotter.
“A one hour class in our type of heated environment is the equivalent of running a 10k run in 80 degree heat,” said Schey, founder of Sweat Yoga. “[Yoga in LA] was getting a little bit redundant and repetitive, and a bit boring. I wanted to bring [this] style of yoga to LA.”
Schey founded Sweat Yoga, a boutique hot yoga studio, five years ago. Since opening the flagship studio in Santa Monica, he’s gone on to open locations in Playa Vista, Westlake Village, Little Tokyo, and most recently in the Tribeca area of New York City.
“It’s a lot of work to open the studios and get them supported by the community,” he said. “People don’t change their workout habits. They don’t change their yoga habits.”
While your local hot yoga studio is brightly lit with carpeted flooring and spa music, Tom’s studios are different. Dusky, mirrorless, and blasting lo-fi hop hop, a typical Sweat Yoga class is more akin to a warehouse party more than an Iyengar class at the YMCA .
“Music moves the soul,” Schey said. “It resonates with people, and when it’s intelligently and creatively out together, our students recognize that. It just adds to the environment as much as any other thing that we do here.”
Schey’s class playlists are distributed to his teachers every week. They consist of the newest artists, as Schey finds “new art” that compliments the ebbs and flow of the typical class.
The music is not the only aspect of the studio that is carefully curated. Each yogi hired by Schey goes through a rigorous training process to see what they already know, to unlearn it, and to be retaught “the Sweat way.”
“We’ll spend countless hours and countless classes [with] a very extensive workbook that we put together for experienced teachers…on how to deliver a Sweat class properly,” Schey said. “We’ve let teachers go. They’ve just gone through our process and they just can’t cut it.”
The yoga practices at Sweat center around an organic yoga flow. The teachers need to be flexible with their teaching to accommodate each student. Unlike Sweat Yoga, the run-of-the-mill studio will have a participant go through 16 alignment cues without a second thought. This is the type of repetition Schey detests and what made him start Sweat Yoga from the get-go.
Discovering hot yoga in Detroi, he searched to no avail for a similar experience on the West Coast.
“[In Detroit] It was more about being in touch with yourself and your breath and not having a teacher deliver their version or their diatribe of what spirituality meant,” Tom said. “[Jonny] created this environment where you were in a yoga room and regardless of how accurate your yoga practice was, there was a recognition that everybody’s body was different.”
Inclusivity is something that Schey has maintained at Sweat Yoga for his students, including both seasoned practitioners and novices.
“We offer some different classes,” Schey said. “We offer some slower ones, we offer free routes [and] workshops for people that want to get familiar both with alignment and terminology.”
All classes allow students time to work on the poses individually.
“We’ll teach a series of linked postures a number of times and then basically allow the students to take that for the next two, three, four minutes by themselves,” Schey said. “[They’ll] improvise if they want. Some people forget [the poses] and just make changes to it.”’
Not only does Schey emphasize this kind of free form tutelage, he also focuses on being an environmentally sound institution.
For those who don’t know, hot yoga studios aren’t known for being environmentally-friendly.
“If you want it to be super green, [it] wouldn’t be hot,” Tom said. “It uses a shit ton of energy.”
Determined to make Sweat Yoga as green as possible, Schey did extensive research on how to reduce the studios carbon footprint, from using two different heating mechanisms to reducing water usage in the bathrooms.
“I built the first standard platinum LEED house in Venice,” he said. “My home has 100 percent solar panels. I use virtually no electricity. People would die for my LADWP bill.”
Schey believes it’s everyone’s duty to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
“In today’s day and age, with this administration, you can either be a dumb ass…or we can make decisions that are more sustainable,” he said.
Schey’s next yoga move is to take Sweat up the west coast to Seattle, and possibly overseas.
To those interested in taking a class at Sweat, Tom invites them to the yoga mat.