Yoga, as a spiritual, mental, and physical practice has its roots in the early, pre-Vedic Hindu traditions of the fifth century B.C.E. Yoga, as a workout routine for basic American girls and New Age yuppies, dates to around the 1980s. Pennsylvania vinyasa group BLACK YO)))GA seeks to return the practice to its mental and meditative form in a way that both appeals to and helps a very specific clientele. According to the group’s founders, this practice, dear readers, is specifically for you.
It’s unsurprising that a meditative practice like yoga is beginning to gain traction in the heavy metal community. We are all fans of a music genre that often sees itself as a distinct art and lifestyle separate from the mores of mainstream entertainment. Many of us first turned to metal during particularly bleak times in our lives, and we feel a sense of catharsis when we listen to this music. Let’s be honest with ourselves; extreme metal is not a genre or scene that revels in the joys and uplifting elements of society. It is an art style that wallows in desperate thoughts and anguished moods, one that paints with broad strokes of black and grey. Dark lyrics indulge dark fantasies and embrace alternative conceptions of truth, justice, and wisdom. Extreme metal is an ostracizer that gives the orphan a home.
As my good friend Christian enumerated, extreme metal offers an escape from negative ruminations for many listeners, particularly the young and the vulnerable. By naming the blackness, it strips the blackness of its power and diminishes it to something small, manageable, toothless. It does this by offering a sense of belonging, a comradery and understanding that these thoughts and emotions are neither new nor unique. “Surely if others have survived this turmoil,” the black or sludge or doom track tells you, “you will too.”
The creators of BLACK YO)))GA offer a complementary approach to aid travelers off the beaten path.
BLACK YO)))GA is vinyasa style yoga set to drone, noise, stoner metal, ambient, industrial, space doom, and other traditional meditation music. It incorporates basic poses in a relaxed environment, while focusing on safe body mechanics. A traditional yoga class in practice, however darker than what you may typically associate with the practice.
Our goal is to form a heavy, meditative space and spread the benefits of yoga to people in our own art and music communities. People who may battle depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction, trauma/PTSD, phobias, dark passengers, etc. People who may not feel they fit into the typical yoga classes. People who, in all rights, may need the balance and release of yoga the most to lead rich and fulfilling lives.
“You can’t fully appreciate the light until you understand the darkness.”
Some time last year our editor in chief started attending a black metal yoga class to help him relieve stress. A bit later, I noticed that my friend Pagliacci Ist Kvlt had begun attending an actual BLACK YO)))GA class. Curious, I looked into the class and found that the group had also assembled a musical ensemble to compose drone/doom music to aid in meditation. One morning over the holiday break, I pressed play on this release, Asanas Ritual, and allowed my mind to focus solely on my work. As I finished my task for the day, memories of a time when I had more minutes to spare in my routine returned. The summer I met my wife, I spent time every week doing yoga and meditating, not specifically for a spiritual reason, but as a means of loosening my muscles and concerting a conscious effort to focus my attention and to slow down my thoughts. You’d be amazed how much a bit of time dedicated to reflecting on the good while coming to terms with the bad while stretching and breathing deeply can be a salve for a troubled heart.
Asanas Ritual reminded me of this, and although I’m in a better place emotionally than I was then, I can see how disallowing myself to carve out time each week to simply think and be relatively still has likely compounded the stresses in my life. I don’t typically make resolutions, but I think I’m going to spend every Monday night for the next few months doing yoga and mentally working through the things that trouble me. The heavy drone and uplifting doom of BLACK YO)))GA seems a worthwhile companion for this exercise.
If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, you can get details about the BLACK YO)))GA class here. If you’re interested in doing yoga on your own, you can purchase a copy of Asanas Ritual here in addition to an instructional DVD. If you empathize with the group’s goal, leave them a kind message on Facebook here.
This year, let’s spend more time meditating on the good and less time anchored by our stresses. Let’s do it together, as a community of disparate yet like-minded individuals.