Some people hate yoga. Some people hate it so much they need to do it in the back of a bar against the soundtrack of death metal music and devil horns in order to enjoy it. For the author of this piece about Metal Yoga, that hatred ran deep, and the cure was just a few “praise Satan”s away. Don’t tell the church.
“I have always hated yoga,” the author begins, almost embarrassingly, as she happens to be a “health and fitness magazine editor” who “wrote and edited countless stories instructing readers how to execute poses that would strengthen and slim them into yogic perfection.”
Some may already see the sign of a problem here.
“I tried neighborhood classes, fancy-trendy classes and Groupon bargain classes and hated them all,” she continues.
Some of you may already see another problem here.
Besides hating the “expert-level smugness” that she encountered in the glossy “uptown” classes, she also hated everything about yoga classes and yoga culture from the sound of the breathing next to her to the way yoga teachers act and speak to the way yogis carry their yoga mats, smugly, and with “overzealously squared shoulders and confident strides.”
Yeah, she pretty much hates everything about yoga. But her doctors told her it would be good for her scoliosis, so she kept trying. Everything sucked, according to her, until she found Metal Yoga Bones at the Cobra Club, a yoga studio/bar in Brooklyn. (You can’t get more hipster-Brooklyn-exclusive than this – a different kind of smugness - but we digress.)
In Metal Yoga there are no chimes or singing bowls, where the closest you’ll come to a mudra is devil horns and the closest thing to chanting are howls and growls and an occasional “praise Satan!” for good metal measure. In Metal Yoga, speakers blast music from the likes of At the Gates and Cannibal Corpse.
In this class, the author, a self-proclaimed yoga hater, finally found her home. ”I felt welcome and accepted,” she says. The class was relatable to her and that’s what matters.
Then the electric guitars started to blare: “Tormenter” by W.A.S.P., “Feel the Pain” by Obituary, “Forever Blind” by At the Gates, and other metal tracks. Thode was sometimes hard to hear over the music, but at least the death metal drowned out any heavy breathing and sniffling from my classmates. She led us through common Vinyasa poses: downward-facing dog, triangle pose, forward bend, Warrior I and Warrior II, to name several. But she was careful not to get stuck in the yoga jargon. When she led us into plank — calling it “plank” instead of “chaturanga” — she described it as “the top of a push-up” to make sure everyone knows what she’s talking about.
This is, ultimately, a wonderful thing. Someone who couldn’t stand yoga finally found a place where she feels comfortable enough to practice, and this is why it’s great that these alternative classes exist (yes, maybe even Broga, geez). Yoga teachers, a lot of them who teach standard classes, do have tattoos, and do offer the English translation to the Sanskrit. Savasana is corpse pose and plank is plank. But if you feel like you don’t belong and aren’t accepted for who you are, you’re not going to have a good time.
The thing is, NYC sure has a way of making you feel this disgusted and outcast, whether it has to do with yoga or Madison Avenue or Cronuts or anything hipsters cling to and decide is now IT. So we hear you, sister, and offer a cheers to a fellow fringer who doesn’t feel comfortable just following the pack. But, just playing Devil’s advocate here, we have to wonder if by deafening with death metal music and dismissing the yoga-ness of yoga you’re kind of missing some of…well, the yoga.
We agree, there is some sort of elitist feeling, or maybe even just club-like vibe, that yoga studios give off, especially in NYC, very similar to the way cycle studios and CrossFit gyms make you feel – like you really belong or don’t belong at all. But where we think this author might have missed the point is how she views yoga class, generally – as a workout – which may have caused the resistance all along.
“It might sound counterintuitive, but comfort is important in finding a workout that will keep you in shape. The most effective routine is the one that feels right for you. The more natural your workout feels, the more likely you are to stick to it,” the converted yogi writes.
This may be true. And yoga can and may keep you “in shape.” But maybe viewing yoga as less of a workout and more of a practice would help ease those pangs of hatred, too. Maybe somewhere in between praising Satan and death growls there is a little glimpse of inner, maybe even spiritual, comfort this author seems so dead-set against. Seeking familiarity is comfortable but what might be even more rock ‘n’ roll is every once in a while trying out that unfamiliar, uncomfortable situation of plain old yoga class, listening to your body and observing your thoughts and reactions. This is harder than it sounds, and maybe you’ll still hate it, but at least you might have a better understanding why.
Anyhow. We all find yoga (in whatever form) in different ways, and we’re glad she found it, too. That damn yoga.
*Put your Pope-dialing on hold. No one is actually worshipping Satan here or in Metal Yoga classes.*
image credit: Virginia Pelley for The Washington Post