Yes, this is a blog about yoga–heavy metal and yoga. Two tastes that do not go well together, you might be thinking to yourself. Two things that have saved my life at different points in my current incarnation…they happen to be two of my favorite things, and nothing makes me happier than hearing the screechy falsetto of, “Get your hands of off my woman, motherrrrrrfuuuuckkkkerr!” while I am sweating my ass off on my yoga mat. In my yoga room. I am lucky enough to have my own little yoga shala on the first floor of my house, and I am going to take full advantage of it for as long as I am able to live here. Now if I could only unearth all of my old Slayer posters so I can build a little Tom Araya shrine in the corner….it will really complement the Tibetan thangha paintings and incense…
Sometime in the late 70’s/early 80’s, I got my hands on the Richard Hittleman’s 28 Day Yoga book. I was a chunky little binge-eating Cuban-Italian kid living in the hood and going to Catholic school. I started doing yoga in my bedroom by myself. Why, I have no idea. No one I knew did yoga, and I knew I needed to keep it a secret from my family because it was “weird.” I can remember the first time I figured out how to do Plough pose—I was thrilled! Shortly thereafter, my Mom found my Hittleman book and told me yoga was “Satanic” and took it away from me. I was crushed. It seemed like everything I liked, apparently, was Satanic. D&D, kissing girls & boys in closets, unicorns, Ursula K. LeGuin, Randy Rhoads and now yoga? I went back to binge eating cheez doodles and hiding.
I started doing yoga as an adult (not even going to front like it was “a practice”, OK? Or even worse, “my practice”) in 1999. Initially, I took classes at the gym because I had heard yoga was good for asthma and so far, nothing else had worked. I was already working out doing cardio and weights a couple times a week at that point. I was about 250 pounds, still drinking and occasionally doing various drugs, and desperate for something that would help me to breathe. That first class kicked my ass! Not only was I huffing and puffing and sweating, but I was way less flexible than I had ever imagined. I wanted to kick the girl next to me who had her ankles behind her head in her smug little face. Clearly, I had issues. But for some reason totally unknown to me, I kept going back to that class twice a week for a few years. Then I started practicing at home, and then I started going to a Bikram studio. Around this time I started dating a wonderful boy who decided he liked this whole yoga thing I had going on and we started doing yoga together. At first, it was amazingly fun. And then at some point, he morphed into someone I liked to refer to as “The Yoga Guru Asshole”—correcting my postures, lecturing me on various asanas and breathing practices. Instead of taking this with a grain of salt or maybe discussing it with him and telling him how much it bothered me, I took it as a sign to completely stop doing yoga and in fact to start hating yoga and anything even vaguely related to yoga. I liked to blame him, but of course it was all about me and my own brand of bullshit.
Fast forward to 2007. I was probably close to 275 pounds and extremely miserable. I stopped drinking and doing drugs this year, but every other area of my life seemed to be falling apart. I tore a tendon in my ankle from my crazy exercise purging behaviors and ended up in a wheelchair for almost 5 months while I healed from surgery. I hired an assistant at work who happened to be a dedicated yoga practitioner. I was venting about how I needed to get back into doing yoga, but how much I hated it with a burning passion. The new age bullshit, the skinny bendy people, the quasi spiritual crap–hated it. He said, “Maybe you just need to practice at home and listen to some metal. Or something silly. Like The Darkness.” He then busted out into this perfect imitation of Justin Hawkins and did a tree pose. Ah ha, I thought.
Now it’s 2012, I’ve lost 76 pounds, been clean and sober for 4 years and 7 months, been vegan since August 16th 2010 and I have been practicing (or doing) yoga for almost two years, usually while listening to heavy metal and usually in my bedroom. I think I can count the number of classes I’ve been to in the past two years on one hand! I still “suck” at yoga and am about as flexible as a stepladder, but I do my best. Yoga has been, ironically, a huge part of making peace with myself and recovering from addiction, alcoholism, binge eating and exercise bulimia. Yoga is for everyone, dammit. You don’t need fucking Lululemon yoga pants or a Bikram studio. Yoga doesn’t care if you’re old, young, fat, skinny, male or female. Yoga doesn’t care about your race, your tax bracket, or whether you can put your ankles behind your head better than the person on the mat next to you. Yoga, quite frankly, doesn’t give a damn. The impersonal, totally accepting love of the process of yoga is a most excellent thing. There’s enough room for all of us.