10.01.2017 / words: Lydia Stockbridge / image: Fiona Digby - Jones
Lydia Stockbridge discovers a blend of exercise and meditation where punk’s ying to yoga’s yang combine to create a yoga experience like no other…
I have been a fair-weather yogi since practitioner Jo Smith first started Punk Rock Yoga classes at The Boileroom in Guildford back in September 2015. However, a busy schedule had got in the way of my zen aspirations. I was looking forward to getting back into the swing of things with the new weekly evening classes, and a long hour (75minutes to be exact) to have some quality ‘me’ time.
The philosophy marrying Punk Rock to Dru Yoga is a simple one. Founded in 2003 by practitioner Kimberlee Jensen Stidl; to scrub out the elitism and make yoga accessible to anyone regardless of age, background, race, or gender.
In Jo’s own manifesto on her website (www.badjuju.eu) she is ‘driven by the desire to make yoga more accessible and inclusive within the community, regardless of whether you’re ‘punk’ or not’.
This is evident from the get-go as we file in, mats tucked under our arms. Jo knows all the regulars on a first-name basis; asking how holidays were or how the new job’s going – it’s friendly and we all smile and nod to each other as we spread out and settle in.
“There’s a silently furious collective will to keep our balance”
The Eagle (Garudasana) is our featured pose of the evening; followed by the meditative Earth sequence, and revisiting an old favourite of mine, the three Warrior poses.
It had been a while since the last session for all of us so this was very much about easing back into the swing of things. Jo talks us through each posture and sequence and its impact on our bodies. We limber up first with some aerobic movements to get the blood pumping; and music from The Menzingers and Thrice to get the adrenalin flowing.
One of my favourite things about these classes is discovering new music through Jo’s Spotify playlists, which get shared after each session online along with diagrams for each posture.
The three Warrior poses channel strength and determination – which is plain to see on all of our now-glistening faces around the room. There’s a silently furious collective will to keep our balance as we take it up from the easier posture one, and move our hips and outstretched arms round to the side, placing all of our weight on one leg in a ‘Superman’ style third pose.
The incessant drum rolls and punk rock riffs of War on Women and Marmozets help me to focus and draw on my energy to power through – although I found myself wobbling no matter how hard I try to keep composed. We then flow through into a tree pose, before repeating the sequence on the other side.
Chairs were put out for us to lean on – It’s reassuring there’s no judgement if we need to take a break or stick to simpler sequences. Jo walks through the room to check on the position of our feet and make adjustments and shout words of encouragement.
The Eagle pose is to give clarity; which all flows back into our central focus on finding balance and feeling grounded. The Eagle again has three stages ranging in difficulty; we choose how hard we want to work it.
After taking a short break, we head into the final and my second favourite part of the session – meditation. We lie back and listen Mogwai as Jo talks us through slowly releasing tension in our muscles from our toes up to our shoulders, focusing on our breath with soft bellies slowly breathing in and out.
As we first moved into a semi-circle for our first meditation sequence; I’d had the smug feeling that I’d really pushed myself and will have earned the pizza I’d be having for dinner later; until the newcomer to our group, a middle-aged lady who had been slogging away at the back came to sit down.
“Excuse me everyone, but my leg’s giving me gyp, I’m going to have to take it off.’
And without further ado she removed her prosthetic lower right leg to get comfy. It was immediately clear: the real, true challenger here was the one-legged woman sitting to my left who had been balancing on one leg, arms outstretched in the fiercest Warrior pose in the room that night.
If that’s not punk, then I don’t know what is.
Punk Rock Yoga runs weekly at the Boileroom, Guildford. Visit www.badjuju.eu and www.theboileroom.net for more information
Article originally published 10/01/2017