…So now you’ve taken all you can ingest/I rip your still beating heart from your chest/
Look me in the eye as you take your last breath/I hope your soul never rests…
Ah, sweet emotional release. Well, for some of us. Those are pretty violent and terrifying words. That sweet bit of prose comes from Whitechapel, a Death Metal band from Tennessee. Dear innocent reader, you may be wondering, “Why would anyone expose themselves to that kind of music on purpose?!”
Let’s discuss. I (Mel, co-founder of SMARTer Bodies) have been a devoted metal-head since middle school. My love of thrash metal, death metal, black metal, progressive metal and doom metal grows more profound with the passing years. In fact, I love the brutality of these signature sounds and lyrics so much that in my personal yoga practice, bands like the one above provide the soundtrack. And I’m not the only one! A recent article in Decibel Magazine (a metal industry publication, obviously) interviewed members of bands who turned to yoga to find their bliss when not playing music, and to keep their bodies in shape for the stage. This burgeoning community will only continue to grow, proving that it is not just a passing fad.
Heresy! Blasphemy! A spiritual practice coupled with such terribly angry vibrations (not to mention the often associated satanic/demonic imagery and general evilness. (That’s another conversation for another blog.) Burn the witch!!! Before we go raising stakes, allow me to explain that I choose this kind of music to practice, because it’s my way of finding a healthy outlet for the anger that I tend to carry around. When this emotional baggage is left unattended, it tends to build to a point that feels uncontrollable. The ensuing scenarios tend to be unnecessary confrontations while commuting in the overly-crowded and aggressive bowels of New York City, or heated verbal altercations over an individual’s seemingly purposeful ignorance of my place in the line ahead of them (Wholefoods has a pretty good system, but damn people, pay attention to the video prompt!). So I use yoga to confront and exorcise the ugly demons inside that lust after confrontation. They look like this:
The point is, that instead of suppressing my rage and general misanthropy, I give them a healthy and appropriate outlet, so that when I leave the house, my behavior comes from a place of rational clarity, not emotional overwhelm. You know, the general skills of self-actualization that one hopefully strives for in the constant process of personal evolution.
Unfortunately, my penchant for wearing black (hello, like every other New Yorker, but put a skull on it and people get all crazy. Unless, said design is by fabulous late Alexander McQueen. All hail the McQueen! R.I.P.) Having my lip pierced and admitted love of metal have made others question my yogini abilities. First of all, I’m not out to be anybody’s guru. But other yoga teachers and Reiki practitioners have chastised me for practicing with the music I love and for even wearing black, because, “It’s not a color conducive to good energy.” Ugh, ew. So would it be better if I followed in the path of other disingenuous, cultural-appropriating frauds and called myself “Moksha?” I don’t think so. I’m just gonna be me. And that whole thing about black not being good for channeling positive energy…let’s go there.
I believe that vibrations affect us all in a very real and tangible ways whether they come from sound, another living thing, a color or a crystal. But I also believe that the frequency of vibration we find comforting or soothing is individual. Certain sub-types of metal keep me happy, but I’m not trying to Reiki people or teach a class while foisting that vibration on to others. People may like music that I find detestable, but that’s OK, because we’re all allowed to create and groove in the soundscape that makes each of us happy. Shiva Rea’s Yoga Trance Dance is not for me, but it’s awesome that so many others have found healing through that practice. I’m aware of what works for me and I help people on a daily basis being pierced, wearing black and loving all things zombie (Although White Zombie, not so much).
Side Note: Somedays my practice is flowing along while Deve Premal beautifully sings. Humans are fluid and change from moment to moment. So can the music I listen to while on the mat or anywhere else.
This is a topic that I can soapbox about forever, and I kinda have here. So, time to wrap it up with a blog post reference from the Babarazzi (miss you guys) about spotting a Sikh at an Immortal concert. Could it be?!!!! Really?! I FUCKING HOPE SO.
How do you find the will to persevere in the face of intense challenge? The way in which you handle difficulties on your yoga mat or in ANY movement practice can be telling of how you handle challenges in life. Sometimes it’s a good choice to know when to back off and take a time-out to change the strategy of how to approach a difficulty (an asana, a fight, feelings…). But then there are those times when you have to find the strength, focus and willpower to sustain meeting a challenge with a long-term duration. So when you got to run that marathon, literally and figuratively, what inspires you to keep going?
If you need a little inspiration this should work. Tina Turner’s triumph over years of domestic abuse and emotional/mental terror can give most of us a reality check and moment of, “If she can do it, then I can do it!” But to watch her perform a song that talks about dealing with hardships and strife with such exuberant energy can be downright transformative. Tina and her dancers ecstatically move caught up in a rhythm that rivals any team of whirling Dervishes. These ladies have clearly plugged into something that can sustain them without flagging excitement throughout this song…which is challenging enough. YOU try singing and dancing like that!
And can we pay homage to Tina’s legs? No seriously, I want to move, dance and have legs like that when I’m 72 years old. More inspiration to keep on Rollin’. (BTW, I prefer this performance, but for some reason was not allowed to embed it,)
Power. Strength. The ability to feel confidence in the face of any challenge and not care what people think of you in the end. Sometimes we want that. M.I.A., the incredible Sri Lankan musician, delivers that kind of message and vibe in her song Bad Girls.
Have you not seen/heard this? Then you need to familiarize yourself with this song and her work. The video itself is pregnant with enough imagery and symbolism to fuel any feminist dialogue and it also just kicks a lot of ass. So give a listen and see how it might influence your practice on the mat. Can you find the bad girl who can approach poses that usually inspire fear/anxiety with a sense of playfulness and no ego attachment for how it’ll turn out? What about Garudasna (Eagle Pose), Kakasana (Crow Pose) or Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3)? If these poses are challenging how can you find your confidence while confronting these postures? Or maybe your challenges are simple as Vrksasana (Tree Pose) or Savasana (Corpse Pose).
What asanas are most challenging for you and how does this song help? If it doesn’t we want to know that too!
As feminists we can’t agree or support the whole “slapping bitches and hoes (or is it ‘ho’s’…whatever)” thing that happens too often in popular music. There is always the eternal conflict of hating the marginalization of women that is all too common in these genres while being pulled in by the irresistible beats and hooks that have allowed such behavior to become somewhat acceptable. Women have often struggled to find equality and respect in the music that was born of social revolt and became the voice against oppression and racism both personal and institutionalized. Despite the contention that has often surrounded the music, the stories that arists tell are invaluable.
That being said…”Drop it Like it’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg is the shiz…shizzle?…hmm, either way it’s good. So put it on and get on the mat. Confront the conflict described above and any others you may be trying to resolve. Dealing with conflicts is pretty much the constant physical and mental negotiation that makes up much of a yoga practice (the “yolking of opposites,” anyone?). If that’s getting too deep just put it on and move! (Sorry, could only find the censored version, but you know the words.)
Sometimes, whether we’re talking about working out or doing a restorative movement practice the real challenge lies in finding the motivation to get off our asses. No judgement! It’s hard to fit it all in, especially when working hard, taking care of partners and children; it seems like there’s never any time left for ourselves. That’s why it is so invariably essential to make and take that time. Our attitudes about reconnecting with ourselves in a physical way needs to change. Instead of setting up the workout or yoga practice before you as something to get done with we should look to each opportunity to move as an opportunity to spend fun time with ourselves. So maybe start off dancing. That’s fun (for most of us). It’s a great motivator and warm up. Today’s selection preaches just that.
Long live the Bee Gees! Be grateful for everything your body does for you. You’ve been gifted an extraordinarily sophisticated machine to go about navigating the world. You Should Be Dancing!
There’s many reasons people do yoga. One of the most frequently given reasons is to do it for emotional well being. We do yoga to feel less stressed, to find inner-strength, to deal with difficult emotions, yada yada yada. Instert Yoga Journal-crap here. It’s so interesting that with all this emotion healing we rarely hear or read about people doing yoga to get good and angry.
Allow me (Mel) to explain. Like most yoga practitioners I like to listen to music while doing yoga. In fact, the trend for live musicians and dj’s in yoga classes is trending hard in NYC right now. Just google it. The results are pretty numerous. But the variety of music used in these classes seems to be heavily concentrated in the hippie/Michael Franti/Kirtan fusion genre. Don’t get me wrong! If that kinda music gets you going and fuels your tapas, so that your practice is all you want it to be: Good for you; there’s plenty of classes to choose from.
Here’s my issue. I like to do yoga to Metal. You know what I mean. Well known bands like Metallica (old, pre-“Load” preferably, none of that new shit they try to pass for music. Fucking Jason Newsted isn’t even part of the band any more and Lars is still an evil troll…WHATEVER. I digress), Pantera, Korn, Alice in Chains (grungey-metal), and Rage Against the Machine to name just a few. I loooooove practing to the most brutal Black and Death Metal I can find. Bands like Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, White Chapel and Satyricon really get my fire lit and have me hitting the mat hard. Then I do what I do best, connect to a deeper part of myself and explore my internal physical, psychological and emotional landscape.
It seems so obvious to me that this is the music to listen to while devoting myself to finding a better state of being. Others don’t think it is so obvious. Often I hear, “What do you listen to? To do yoga?! That’s weird.” Well, I guess for me yoga isn’t all rainbows, butterflies and incense. No honestly, I know I sound angsty, but come on. I rely on my yoga practice to carry me through dark times, nasty emotional places and tumultuous periods of life. Listening to what some consider to be “angry,” “aggressive,” or “frightening” music actually allows me to have the cathartic release I need in order to keep my sanity and not hurt people with words or actions.
When I practice I get to dive right into the dark center of my rage, my pain, irrational anger, fear…pretty much anything that’s keeping me from being the person I want to be. I dive in, feel it all and my tapas burns up these heavy energies and allows me to strip away the layers of my day, my experience, my ego till I can reconnect to the more balanced and glowey Mel that shines her light in the face of the most challenging circumstances. If you will, my practice is my personal mosh pit, from which I emerge healthier, lighter, happier and more able to do good for the people around me.
So my advice? Try it. Go with whatever music does the same for you. Think outside of the Deva Premal box. Although, I do love me some Deva and sometimes play her too. In the name of showing up authentically Kim and I will be sharing what kind of music moves us. It may not be what works for you, so we invite you to share what you listen to and why.
Guaranteed, this is gonna be interesting. Enjoy today’s selection.