When Seun Lim, the co-founder of James Jeans, moved from New York City to Los Angeles in 2004, she experienced a common side effect. "I started building up some unnecessary extra whatever around my waist," she says. "When I was in New York, I didn't have to work out much. I walked, I sweated it out in my daily life. In L.A., everybody drives."
Lim, who's 41, started getting into Pilates and hot yoga when she wasn't designing for the denim label, which netted $26 million in U.S. and European revenue last year. But the routines left her listless. "That kind of yoga was really boring," she says. "I'm not much of a calm, meditative person."
Then, in 2009, while on a business trip to her native South Korea, a friend persuaded her to try flying yoga--in which practitioners use a silk hammock to stretch, strengthen, and hang upside down. She did, and kept doing it almost every day she was in Seoul. "I started to notice how my body was changing," she says. "When you put denim on, the first thing you check is your butt. And I started noticing it just looked better."
Back in L.A., Lim couldn't find a place to practice, so she had a hammock installed in her home and flew her favorite instructor in from Seoul to train her. In 2011, Lim was developing an ultra-skinny legging jean called the Twiggy Dancer. It was inspired by yoga pants, and to make sure the style would be as stretchy and comfortable as advertised, every time the factory finished a sample, Lim did yoga in it. "I was joking, 'Maybe I should open a yoga studio,' " she says. Then she got her instructor certification and started looking for spaces.
In March, D&A (for "dream alive") Flying Yoga opened in an airy, bright studio, where the hammocks hang from large metal hooks. There are plush couches and complimentary water, espresso, and hibiscus tea. Lim teaches the classes herself--as many as three per day, though she's bringing on other instructors--and works on her denim line between sessions. "When you hang upside down, your blood flow changes," she says. "You get fresh blood into your head. When I'm done, I can focus more on my work."
Not that she thinks about work when she's deep in her practice. During those times, "I don't think at all," she says. "Having the hammock in front of you, you really have to focus on yourself. If you're thinking of something else, you're going to fall out of it."