…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.