Buti Yoga Is Suddenly Everywhere in Philly. A Local Instructor Explains Why.
The trendy yoga practice combines power yoga, dancing, and core work.
Neon lights. Drums and heavy bass. Bare feet stomping, hair flowing freely, arms swinging in wild, circular motions. And then — hands and feet dropping back down on the mat for a vinyasa. Yep. You’re in a Buti yoga class.
Buti, or “primal movement” yoga, has been on the rise across the country and in the greater Philly area for the past few years. The style was initially created in 2010 by celebrity trainer and influencer Bizzie Gold, to sculpt ab muscles that stabilize the body. It takes its cue from African, Native American and Middle-Eastern based dance forms. (Worth noting it hasn’t been without controversy — Gold came under fire from yogi Shiva Rea for marketing the movement as new, when it’s based on thousand-year-old traditions of a variety of cultures.)
Still, Buti yoga has only grown in popularity, and local practitioners and teachers say it’s not just exercise, but therapeutic, too — all that arm and leg-swinging allows you to shake out anxieties and fears through big, unencumbered movements. (Plus, the killer cardio offers some serious endorphins.)
Yogi Sarah Rose Lesser (A.K.A. @vtbutisattva) for example, credits Buti yoga with changing her life. She moved to Philly from Vermont several years ago and teaches Buti yoga at The Sporting Club Main Line in Bryn Mawr, AFC Fitness in Bala Cynwyd, at Free People in KOP and Suburban Square, and classes at Unity Yoga in Manayunk. She also sees people one-on-one for private classes in my home or theirs. We caught up with her to find out what she loves so much about the free-swinging, cardio-dance-filled yoga workout, and what she sees for its future in Philly. (Hint: it’s very bright.)
Philadelphia magazine: What is Buti yoga, anyway?
Sarah Rose Lesser: Physically, Buti is yoga and dance and strength training and primal movement combined together. You’re moving with the music. So, you wouldn’t stop and break down choreography and repeat it until you were doing it “correctly” — you’re just moving together the whole time. There’s a lot of West African dance. Every teacher is so different. There’s Native American footwork; there’s things you would find in a Zumba class. It’s big, freeing movements when you’re dancing and the rest of the time it’s core-focused, so you’re engaging deeply in your core and making small movements.
According to the Buti website, “Buti formats incorporate spiral structure technique used to activate our deep core muscles paired with intentional shaking and vibration to release trauma stored at the cellular level. Primal movement, cardio dance and conditioning are seamlessly woven throughout balanced yoga sequencing to give you an all-in-one workout.”
Where did it get its name?
Buti is an Indian Marathi word that means “a cure that has been kept hidden.” Meaning, within yourself. So the intention of the practice being called that is just to show the practitioner that whatever the problem is, you have the tools for it. It could be physical, but it’s so much deeper than that. It’s so much more than just an exercise class. You have the tools within yourself and we have the tools to come together and create change and create the reality that supports the things that you need.
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Where did you learn Buti yoga?
I found Buti yoga for the first time on Instagram. I signed up for e-mail list and they were hosting a training near me so I signed up to get trained without having ever taken a class before. I just felt it and knew it. I did my first training with Buti in Burlington, Vermont in 2017 and have done two more trainings with them since (in Vermont and NYC). They hold trainings all over the country (and internationally). In addition to the trainings I learned so much about the practice by taking other people’s classes and being a part of our community! I’ve love to host a training at a studio in Philly. Maybe by the end of next year I hope that can be happening.
I’m a yoga instructor so my background in yoga is a pretty traditional yoga practice called Ashtanga. I’ve moved far from that at this point and I think Buti is a big part of that. Ashtanga is a set series where you progress and repeat the same thing every time you practice. I really appreciate the dedication that that requires, but once I started doing Buti yoga I loved the freedom within that practice and within that teaching.
Why does this style of yoga work so well for you?
I love to dance. And I don’t drink anymore so I don’t really go out. So I missed that energy and release and opportunity to come together, especially with other women, but just with people in general. I have a yoga background so I loved that it was this combination of all of these different things and I love to move in every different way possible.
In a physical way I loved the combination of yoga and dance, and it really just seemed like the most welcoming and powerful thing. I love that you’re just coming together and letting go of your inhibitions and any insecurities you may have. Just being together with the other people in the class, the support system that is created through that – it’s so important.
What’s the best thing about Buti yoga?
It’s all about connection — with yourself and others. It’s about the amazing people you connect with. I have friends all over the country because of this practice. It truly is a family and a tribe. Go to a class anywhere and you will be welcomed in! And just as important is the opportunity to connect with yourself. Buti fosters growth and change well beyond the physical effects of regularly working out. It helped me step into my power as a woman and an individual. I love and believe in this practice so much.
If you’re intrigued by Buti yoga, search your local studio for upcoming classes. You can catch classes at JTown Hot Yoga and Tuck Barre & Yoga in multiple locations, Unity Yoga in Manyunk, The Sporting Club Main Line in Bryn Mawr, AFC Fitness in Bala Cynwyd, and Awakenings Pole Fitness in Manayunk, for starters. Or, check it out online — they offer streaming of classes to try at home first.