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CEO Corner: A Conversation with Eli Walker, Drunk Yoga’s Founder & CEO

CEO Corner: A Conversation with Eli Walker, Drunk Yoga’s Founder & CEO

Drunk Yoga, a fun-first, beverage-accompanying yoga class, is helping to redefine the world of fitness

Eli Walker, the Founder & CEO of Drunk Yoga, came up with the class’s concept in a bar. What began as a yoga class with a beverage in hand became an interactive, fun-first class. As in-person workouts continue to flourish, Drunk Yoga capitalizes on consumers’ desire for emotional connections and engaging experiences. In an increasingly lonely society, Drunk Yoga turns workouts into a party, capitalizing on the public’s desire for fun. Athletech News spoke with Walker about her inspiration for founding the company, its consumer base, and the future of the company.

Athletech News (ATN): What was your inspiration for founding Drunk Yoga?

Eli Walker: Okay, so, technically, my lightbulb moment for Drunk Yoga stemmed from a casual conversation at a bar when a friend joked that he needed yoga because he was entirely inflexible. But when he went to demonstrate this, he bent over and touched his toes. “Oh, I guess I can do it when I’m drunk,” he said.

Laughing, I replied, “Let’s do Drunk Yoga!”

It may have felt like a joke in the moment, but my idea simmered. My friend would’ve never considered trying yoga before that conversation, as so much of a typical yoga class comes loaded with expectations for a certain kind of body, background, flexibility, socioeconomic status, perfection and spiritual hypocrisy. In short, yoga can be intimidating, which often prevents would-be yogis from ever trying it. So, I thought, what better way to make yoga more accessible than by turning it into an entertainment experience by infusing it with the social ritual of a happy hour/morning coffee plus games, icebreakers and cheeky music? Like one big yoga party where everyone’s invited.

What most people don’t know is that even before this fateful interaction in 2017 in the back of bar in lower Manhattan, I had already been experimenting with various ways to break down the “4th wall” in yoga classes–(you know, that imaginary social contract we adhere to situated between the audience/students and the performer/instructor…the one that keeps us from saying, “Great, how are you?” when the teacher asks, “Hey everyone, how ya doing today??”). Equipped with a BFA in Acting from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and years of experience teaching yoga and storytelling classes worldwide for both adults and kids, I wanted to figure out a way to create a new, unconventional “container” for wellness that makes us want to engage with one another as active participants in our own experience. I had a hunch that leveraging the power of play was the key.


When Drunk Yoga went hashtag viral, I was delighted that this crazy little idea blossomed into widespread interest. Sure, it came with some hate mail. But it also came with a lot of people trying yoga for the first time, and yogis falling in love with the heart of the practice all over again. Not because of a couple of glasses of wine, but rather a new–albeit subversive–perspective.

ATN: Who is the main demographic for Drunk Yoga, and has it changed since the inception of the brand?

Eli Walker: The core demographic for Drunk Yoga has remained steadfast in that we attract fun-loving urbanites (both individuals and companies), eager to laugh, let their hair down, move their bodies and make new friends while they do it. While we attract a healthy number of young women in their 20s and 30s (plus 1-2 good-spirited boyfriends!) to our public classes for our immersive pop-ups at hotels, our corporate team-building experiences are most popular amongst medium-sized start-ups as well as large tech-based companies. The only thing that’s changed about our demographic since Drunk Yoga’s inception is that we now not only offer corporate events in NYC and L.A., but we work with clients and teams across the globe via Zoom (thanks, COVID!) when they book our virtual team-building experiences.

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ATN: How has the “fun-first” workout world evolved, and where do you see it going in the next five years? Any other examples of non-conventional exercise practices that are catching your eye?


Eli Walker: I love the term “fun-first” workout. I always say #selfcare is best accessed through #communitycare, and a strong, sustainable sense of community is found in one’s experience of belonging. More and more I’m seeing playful workout brands grow in popularity, and I’ve no doubt it’s because, as a society, we’re realizing that the best entry point to belonging is through the art (and science!) of play. Whether it’s a boxing class with a post-workout happy hour at GRIT BXNG, or a super fun dance workout with 305 Fitness, I believe we’ll continue to see group exercise evolve into more deliberately joyful gatherings curated to build community–simply because socializing makes us happy, and the truth is, happiness is health.

ATN: What’s next for Drunk Yoga? Any exciting partnerships or events on the horizon?

Eli Walker: While Drunk Yoga remains busy delivering interactive corporate team-building events to health-conscious organizations worldwide, we’re also enjoying the process of redeveloping our immersive pop-ups in NYC and beyond in this post-pandemic era. Now, our public-facing partnerships often include more sponsored beverages, swag and snacks…(because, I mean, let’s be honest, fitness events are only as good as their free snacks, am I right?). And, we’ve condensed the “Drunk Yoga Experience” into a themed, short-term series that we’re taking on the road to other major cities like Chicago, Austin and Los Angeles, joining forces with cool venues like lifestyle hotels, luxury residential properties and trendy wineries. We just launched our summer rooftop series called #KINDNESSISSEXY at M Social Hotel and EVEN Hotel Midtown East in NYC, and are featuring some fancy non-alcoholic cocktails in many of our classes, in addition to our signature wine offerings, of course;)

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