The closest I’ve come to being a metalhead is giving myself whiplash when Paradise City was played at my student union (and of course, fancying Jon Bon Jovi a bit when he had his hair cut). I’ve always been mundanely mainstream, and the bloodied shirts my dad left in the linen basket (flotsam from his mid-life crisis sparked tattoo spree) during my teenage years, mean I remain resolutely ink-free.
So I might not be the target market for Gymbox’s Heavy Metal Yoga class, launching in the City, later this month. But while I’m not a head-banging banker, my spine demands a daily dose of yoga, and I love a gimmick. I’ve previously been persuaded to put myself in the sweaty hands of other gym-goers at a crowd-surfing class, to emulate a Yummy Mummy workout using my niece and nephew as resistance, and to do yoga in a pop-up purple womb-like tent.
I am a marketer’s dream. So when I was invited to the preview of Heavy Metal Yoga, I thrashed through the crowds in Primark to buy a Guns N’ Roses leotard and some stick-on tattoos. Unfortunately, their only tattoos declared, “I love Justin Bieber” but I finally tracked down some quality metal clichés, and adorned my thighs with a melee of hearts, skulls, guns and roses.
At the press preview, I’m pleased to see I’m not the only one to embrace the theme, although I do feel my Guns N’ Roses merch is showing a bit too much of my boobs for a yoga class. Pre-slashed at the cleavage, it looks like something Goldie Hawn might have worn in The Banger Sisters.
The class is done to a carefully chosen metal soundtrack. It consists of all the usual yoga moves — Downward Dog, Tree Pose etc. — but where possible, we sport the “rock on” sign with our hands. This consists of tucking in the middle finger and the ring finger, leaving the little finger and the forefinger poking up like horns. I constantly forget which fingers to fold, and have an uneasy feeling that my “horns” represent something rude.
The horns aren’t the only nod to the metal theme — instructor Ben throws out the odd reference to air guitar and stage dives, as he takes us through the positions. Telling me he used to be a metal fan himself, Ben says: “There’s a lot of air guitar in heavy metal, and we can use that in yoga to mobilise the shoulders. The class mimics things that would happen in a heavy metal environment, so the stage dive that the band would do, becomes a back bend in yoga!”
The class is scheduled to run at eight o’clock in the morning. What are the benefits of doing it before work? Ben says, “connection to the breath allows us to be more present, and stops the mind wandering off into the future. This makes us feel calmer and more grounded, and allows us to focus 100% on the task at hand — which results in more productivity!”
OK, and what about people who are scrunched up at their desks all day, harbouring back ache — will this help? Ben says, “Yeah, massively. Any given yoga session can lengthen the spine by two centimetres, by increasing the synovial fluid between every disk in the spine. It also helps with other tight areas, like hip flexors. They get tight when we sit down for a long time and make us stand with bad posture. Yoga lengthens all that out.”
Brilliant! So we should all rock on in the morning? “Yeah! It’s been shown that a bit of movement in the morning — or a lot of movement, if you’re doing heavy metal yoga — will set you up for a much more productive day.”
This is great if you care about your career, but let’s not overlook the shallow people. “Asking for a friend,” I question whether it will give you sexy abs and make you look hotter? “Yes, definitely!” Ben assures me, with such enthusiasm that I’m just moved to believe him.
But will the class appeal to real metal fans? I go to heavy metal mothership The Crobar and ask manager Rich whether he thinks his customers would do it. He says, “Yes, I do actually! Ten years ago, I’d have said no, but now a lot of the metal crowd are older and are looking to do a bit of gentle exercise, and the younger crowd are much more health and fitness conscious anyway, so I can imagine this would do well with customers these days.” So Heavy Metal Yoga gets a thumbs up? “I’ve never done yoga, but my philosophy in life is that, if it’s done to heavy metal, it’s always better than if it’s done without heavy metal! So why not?”
Heavy Metal Yoga launches at the Bank branch of Gymbox on 21st April and runs for six weeks. The class is available to non-members.
Samantha Rea is a freelance journalist living in London. She can be found tweeting here.
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