One woman is covering her face, chest and arms with swirling dots of glow-in-the-dark neon paint while another paints orange brushstrokes around her eyes, making her look like a tiger. I begin drawing ab muscles onto my stomach with electric pink paint because why not? We accessorize our looks with glow bracelets and necklaces that sit in a pile in the front of the room. Although it sounds like we’re getting ready to go take drugs in a field at a music festival, that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re here to exercise. Welcome to Buti Glow Yoga, or Buti ‘Glowga’ as it’s often called, the ravelike fitness craze that’s shaking up a yoga world that sometimes takes itself a little too seriously.
The class at LA’s The Bridge Mind Body Movement yoga studio makes big promises that it will help us “shake off any stress and baggage from the work week” while connecting us to our “primal essence and inner feminine power.” I’d had a long day punching my keyboard and just needed to unwind at a yoga class, and this was the only one offered in my neighborhood on ClassPass. After hitting the reserve button, I worried it would be too woo-woo but knew I couldn’t back out without risking a cancellation fee. But any reservations I had quickly vanished once I grabbed a brush. As I start dotting paint on my body with this group of total strangers, I started to feel calmer than when I walked in. I felt like a kid again.
“As adults, we rarely get to play,” says instructor Theresa Lee. “I love seeing how creative people are with the paint. It is all part of nourishing the soul, connecting the mind and body, and creating a self-love practice.”
When Lee switches off the lights and the back lights come on, the real work begins. As she moves her body gracefully to the pulsing rhythm of electronic music and hip-hop, leading a fast-paced workout fusing primal dance moves, flowing asanas and plyometrics, we all try our best to follow.
Created by trainer Bizzie Gold, whose celebrity clients have included the likes of Jennifer Love Hewitt, Buti Yoga is unique in part because the practice involves almost nonstop rhythmic circular movements of your hips that tone your core muscles. Buti Yoga may be playful, but it’ll kick your ass. And what does the paint have to do with working out? “The painting and the black lights enhance the practice because it is dark and we are glowing,” Lee says. “It allows people to feel more free and confident.”
I love the freedom the body paint and black lights add to the class; it helps me stop worrying about what I might look like as I try not to collapse into a neon heap of my own limbs. Instead of being forced to stare at my sweaty face and shaking legs under harsh fluorescent lights in the mirror, I only see the painted marks on my body and everyone else. At one point, I got so caught up in the moment that I even confused my neighbor’s neon reflection for my own.
Lee is seemingly inexhaustible. We bounced up and down in a squat position so long that my legs began to feel like rubber bands ready to snap. I looked in the mirror, and all of my body paint had bled together into dripping neon pools of sweat. I looked less like a glowing goddess at this stage and more like a sweaty swamp monster. We pounded the floor to connect with the beat of the music, which helped me get out of my head and stop intellectualizing what we’re doing and just power through it.
“Buti Yoga is a challenging practice and maybe even uncomfortable at times,” Lee says. “But if you do the work, you will experience so many physical and energetic benefits. The electricity and power in the room during a Buti Glow class is magical. Most people’s reactions are, ‘That was hard but so fun!’”
And she’s absolutely right. At the end of class, I sank into my mat, feeling like I’d overcome any anxieties I had before class. The only thought that concerned me at the moment was: “When can we bust out the paints and do this again?!”