Where: 132 Mulberry St Suite 6E, New York, NY
When I originally wrote out this interview, I described Lauren as “one of those Wall-Street-gone-zen types who unexpectedly found a home in yoga and took the leap.” Lauren took one look at it and said “no, that’s not true.” Meet the talented and wonderfully quirky Lauren Imparato.
This is Lauren.
“It wasn’t one of those things where I always thought ‘I’m going to run away and be a yoga teacher one day’ – I loved my job – but it just sort of happened, and then it was time to go.”
How it started.
Nine years ago, Lauren Imparato, a runner (not a “yoga person”) discovered yoga.
While working on a fixed income desk at Morgan Stanley, Lauren signed up for her first yoga teacher training with Kelly Morris of Conquering Lion Yoga. She had no intention of becoming a full-time instructor, but hoped to deepen her practice, and maybe to teach once in a while as a hobby. “As part of my teacher training, I was required to instruct once a week. I started out teaching four friends in the front of your loft, but every week more and more people showed up to my classes… and soon there were 30-plus. The funny thing was, these were all people like me – people who ‘hated’ yoga, needed to sweat, and had an urban appreciation for life.”
Her growing popularity was the first sign that this might be Lauren’s calling – but other people saw it before she did. “My boyfriend was pushing for me to do this before I realized it was an obvious choice.” Said boyfriend, who goes by vintaj, turned out to be more than just encouraging – he is now the Resident Mixologist at I.AM.YOU. “It was really when we started syncing up the classes with the music that it all clicked – that this could be something bigger, a one-of-a-kind approach to yoga.”
Music is an integral part of I.AM.YOU.’s shtick. The music is varied, eclectic, and unexpected (traditional chanting segues to up-tempo beats à la Bowie, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga and more). So when did Lauren and vintaj start collaborating? “It started just as a nice relationship thing,” Lauren laughs. “When my classes started attracting more people, I wanted him to be part of the weekly flood arriving at the door. He is one of the best DJs in NY and knows how to move people with music better than anyone in NYC – so I said, ‘why don’t you do it?’” …and so heart-pumpingly hip Music Mixes became an integral part of the I.AM.YOU package. The two took turns determining the class style. “Either I would say, ‘design a soundtrack around this physical or philosophical them,’ or he would say, ‘design a class around this musical or lyrical theme.’ There’s always something that ties the whole experience together.”
I.AM.YOU : The Name
One Sunday of her Teacher Training, Lauren became entranced by the week’s focus of Mahamudra, a cornerstone to Tibetan philosophy. She was scribbling away notes in the margins of her notebook, and out came “I am you” in the corner of her page. It was catchy. It was deep. It was true.
Now it gets nutty: months later, when Lauren had decided to launch her business, she was brainstorming names and the concept of the brand with Walter Zamora, a long-time friend, surfer, artist, and well known branding genius. “How about ‘I am you’?” he mused. She had never mentioned the name to him. It was clearly meant to be.
Walter, by the way, is the talented artist responsible for the logo, branding, and much of the art in the I.AM.YOU. studio. He was one of those “hates yoga” types – before Lauren got to him, of course.
Studio, Vibe, and Art
I.AM.YOU. is not a typical yoga studio. It’s a Little Italy loft with a work/live permit. The space is massive, funky, and accessible by way of an unmarked freight elevator that opens directly onto the street (like Willy Wonka, except it leads you to the place where you burn off the chocolate). It’s the quintessential NYC “hidden gem”. The wall is adorned with bold, trendy paintings; the loft is minimalist and swanky. Mats are set out in advance of class; practitioners face a massive wall of old-timey Soho-style windows (check out a class in the evening as the sun sets – cool.)
This funkalicious space is, in part, responsible for the birth of I.AM.YOU. “If I hadn’t had this loft space, there wouldn’t have been an option to invite 30 people for my teacher training classes.” A double blessing, since the zoning allowed her to start a business in the comfort of her own home.
Crowd. So Hot Right Now.
Notably, the clientele at I.AM.YOU is absolutely, undeniably smoking hot.
So what came first, the chicken or the egg? The rock hard bodies or the Lauren Imparato? “A lot of I.AM.YOU. students were athletic to begin with, but I definitely notice the bodies changing as they incorporate I.AM.YOU. into their weekly routines...you have to be a bit of an endorphin lover to come here, especially those who come multiple times a week – and there are quite a few people who do just that.”
Lauren has a deep pocket full of success stories, as well: “You’ll see results for sure. I have one guy who has had his suits tailored twice since he started coming to me 10 months ago. Another girl who has lost 20 pounds in the past year. And others that have never felt, looked, or raced better.”
What’s to Come
Our burning question for Lauren was, “what’s next?” How will she handle the rapidly multiplying herd of hot chick sheep that follows her around?
The good news: Lauren is currently training another teacher to join I.AM.YOU. “Once she’s ready, we’ll be able to expand the schedule a bit.”
Regardless of how they expand, she wants to keep it a close-knit, boutique community for those in the know.
Who Should Go / Why they Should Go
“I don’t have a specific client profile, but I can tell you that my specialty is turning beginners and non-yogis into yogis. Especially athletes,” Lauren says. They empathize with her style because she came from that same non-yogi, sweat driven mentality.
According to Lauren, no matter who you are, you probably belong at her studio. “I.AM.YOU has something for everyone – if you want to sweat, meditate, lose weight, prevent injury, or just work out to good music – we can do all of those things. It’s a 360 experience.”
However, a word to the wise: when you trek down to NoLiTa, be ready to work.
We asked Lauren about her favorite instructors in the city. Here they are, enjoy:
Just do it
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