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Jackie Alexander of Humming Puppy

The yoga entrepreneur on how humming led to her success, the benefits of submersing oneself in different frequencies, and how her shalas act as personal sanctuaries.

Having caught the yoga bug almost a decade ago, we’ve been in and out of studios for as long as we care to remember. Somehow, the workout never really stuck with us, like it did for many of our friends and peers. But as life (and luck) would have it, we’d recently found ourselves spending a lot of time down under — specifically in Melbourne — and were eager to ease back into a regular workout schedule. To be frank, the idea of a “stretch class” kept bouncing around in our minds. Then, we heard about Humming Puppy.

Founded by Jackie Alexander and her partner, Chris Koch in 2015 with the opening of their first studio in Melbourne, the concept is “Yoga That Resonates”. Quite literally, from the moment you walk in to the shala, you will hear Humming Puppy’s signature hum that’s created by two frequencies: one to help ‘ground’ you throughout the session and another to help you achieve a “[state] of peak performance”. Its conception was groundbreaking, as evidenced by their second outlet debuting in Sydney in 2016 and their third in New York this year.

Offering three types of classes — Mellow Hum, Unified Hum and Dynamic Hum — for beginners to advanced yogis, the first was perfect for our first time back on the mat in a long time. Slow paced, meditative and super chilled, the stretchy, gentle poses were just what our knotted, tense bodies needed. After attending a few more classes, including a Unified Hum session that made us work significantly harder, we bought a 20-class package.

Maybe it’s the hum, or the gorgeous aesthetics of the spa-like studio atmosphere. Or the vast, heated room that we looked forward to stepping into from the winter cold outside. But we loved all of it. Even from the simple touch that we were able to book our own mat before every class and choose a favourite spot.

Though it may be too early to say it, and we wouldn’t want to jinx it, this could be the one yoga studio and style we’ll stick with. Finally.

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How did you come up with the concept of incorporating the hum into the experience?

Over dinner one night, my partner Chris and I were discussing the vibrational sensations that can sometimes be felt in certain parts of your body during meditation. This discussion led us to the idea of introducing vibration into the practice of yoga. This idea then led us down a path of researching sound and sound healing, and understanding the (scientifically observed) effects that frequencies can have on the physical body.

This process is actually referred to as “vibrational entrainment” and the reason why pendulum clocks that sit against the same wall will eventually end up ‘syncing’ and swinging in unison.

The final result was engineering our studio to actually hum and vibrate at specific frequencies that were optimal for being both focused and grounded.

How do the sounds and vibrations work with and for the body, and what benefits do they bring?

Our studios are injected with a combination of frequencies to enhance and deepen your experience. More specifically, we use a combination of 7.83 hz and 40 hz. Being submersed in these frequencies helps you to naturally produce matching frequencies through a process of entrainment. The 7.83 hz frequency — otherwise known as the Schumann Resonance — is actually the frequency of the earth itself and helps to ‘ground’ you through your practice. The 40hz frequency is specifically associated with gamma brainwave activity, integral for achieving states of peak performance. Elite athletes, top-notch musicians and high achievers in all fields typically produce far more gamma waves than average. Everyone naturally produces this 40 hz gamma brainwave but by being submersed in this frequency, you will potentially find it easier to match that frequency.

And whilst all of that sounds quite serious and complicated, on a much simpler level, the hum just feels good!

“My partner, Chris and I were discussing the vibrational sensations that can sometimes be felt in certain parts of your body during meditation. This discussion led to the idea of introducing vibration into the practice of yoga.”

Why were heated rooms incorporated too?

A heated room can assist with warming up the body in preparation for the practice and during the practice itself. However, while we do heat our studio, we maintain the temperature at 27°C (80°F) degrees to keep the room ‘warm’ without being ‘hot’.

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Humming Puppy’s Melbourne studio, like all their studios or “shalas”, feature heating panels hanging from the ceiling

Tell us more about the three types of classes.

We don’t prescribe to any specific style but rather draw our inspiration from all of the lineages from which our teachers have practiced and learnt. We believe this gives our students a unified and holistic practice. We base our teachings on the principles of breath-pranayama, movement-asana and awareness-meditation. These principles are the foundation of our three core class styles in which we welcome beginners through to the most experienced yogi.

These three class styles include our Mellow Hum, which is a super chilled class that may include gentle slow flows and postures held for three to five minutes at a time.

Our Unified Hum, which is a medium intensity class, gives students an opportunity to link breath to movement to calm the mind and strengthen the body.

And finally our Dynamic Hum, which is a high intensity class, can include stronger, longer holds, Vinyasa flows and advanced postures that will energise and challenge your practise.

In all of these classes, we welcome beginners through to the most advanced yogi, and will always offer variations for beginners or for any advanced postures that are being practiced.

“The 7.83 hz frequency — otherwise known as the Schumann Resonance — is the frequency of the earth itself and helps to ‘ground’ you through your practice. The 40 hz frequency is associated with gamma brainwave activity, integral for achieving states of peak performance.”

We love the studios’ aesthetic and interior designs. Tell us more about that and how they echo the overall ethos of Humming Puppy.

We value great design, especially the beautiful architecture of many of the sacred spaces around the world, and look to emulate this in a way that is void of any specific religious labels. This allows our students to interpret our spaces in their own unique way.

We also wanted our clients’ experience within the space to begin when they cross the threshold from the busy street and neighbourhood. There are gradual points of reveal as you move through the different spaces, transitioning into a space of relaxation before moving into the sublime — the shala/studio — and onto the mat.

In the reception and bathrooms, our aim was to create a luxurious space with a spa-like atmosphere. In the shala, the aim is twofold: provide a sacred and beautiful space for your practice but also a practical space where there is ample room between mats, the teacher is always visible thanks to a tiered floor, and our trademark hum resonates within the studio to enhance and deepen the experience of yoga.

“We value beautiful architecture of sacred spaces and look to emulate this in a way that’s void of specific religious labels.”

Humming Puppy Melbourne reception Après Avant

Do you practice other types of exercise to complement yoga?

For some time, I used to do Pilates and personal training and have to admit — I noticed a difference in my yoga practice. While I loved how both trainings complemented my practice, it really came down to what I was able to fit into my schedule consistently. My daily yoga practice is where I learn the most and what helps to keep me most grounded and centred.

What did it take for you to eventually gain control over your mind? What were your practices like in terms of discipline levels, and what challenges did you face along the way?

For me, this is a process that has been gradual and is very much ongoing. However, the key element that has produced the most benefit, but which has also presented the biggest challenges, is discipline. Discipline and repetition (to eventually form a habit) with both my yoga and meditation practices has been the single biggest thing that has produced an observable difference in moving from being a passenger (with regards to the mind) to being an observer, and then ultimately the driver.

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The New York studio

You just opened your New York studio. Why did you decide to open a studio there and is it too soon to ask what’s next for Humming Puppy?

New York is just an amazing city that has always held a special place in our hearts and it has been our intention, since before even launching our first studio in Melbourne, to bring Humming Puppy to New York. Apart from personally being in love with the city, we also felt that the calming and restorative nature of our studio would provide an urban sanctuary where you can relax and take time out from the high paced city lifestyle.

In terms of what’s next, we would love to open more locations in Manhattan, as well as Brooklyn. For now, we’re still getting settled in our Flatiron/Chelsea location.

What does conscious living mean to you?

For me, conscious living can almost be viewed as an extension of your meditation practice where the attention of the mind is consciously focused on your actions and your environment. That means consciously observing your thoughts and emotions as they arise throughout your entire day and making mindful and conscious choices in all our interactions. Conscious living also means paying attention to your feelings without judging them and being rooted in the present moment.

Images courtesy of Chris Daile; Mavis Jean Photography; Joseph Shubin