SEATTLE — The guitarist plugs in his amp, and the yoga instructor strips off her baggy skull-patterned boxers to reveal black bike shorts.
They both warm up for the latest twist on an ancient practice: punk rock yoga.
Power yoga, baby yoga, kickboxing yoga, and now this. Has yoga fusion finally gone too far? After all, yoga is a spiritual discipline aimed at creating a sense of deep quiet and inner peace, while punk rock is all about being undisciplined and LOUD.
It makes sense to instructor Kimberlee Jensen.
“It’s the whole do-it-yourself ethic,” said Jensen, 34. “Punk is democratic, nonhierarchical — that’s definitely the way I like to approach it.”
Her free, weekly classes are held at an all-ages nightclub and aimed at teenagers and adults who wouldn’t be caught dead in a health club.
“It shouldn’t be a thing that just skinny people do,” Jensen said. “That’s not what yoga should be.”
'Raw and organic'
Jensen was inspired by the success of Punk Rock Aerobics, the brainchild of two Boston women who turned classic punk moves into a real workout. Blasting The Sex Pistols and Blondie works for aerobics, but Jensen knew she would need something a little mellower.
The live music in her classes doesn’t sound anything like punk. It has ranged from Arabic drumming to a saxophone and flute to the current house band, solo electric guitarist Christopher Hydinger.
The music is quiet and peaceful, flowing with the yoga poses — but still “raw and organic” like punk, Jensen points out.
One of her favorite music moments was when an acoustic guitar duo performed easy-listening versions of punk classics such as “God Save the Queen.” The class and instructor broke out in giggles.
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“A lot of people who come probably would not respond to traditional Hindu music,” Jensen said. “That’s probably heresy, I’m sure.”
A longtime fitness instructor, Jensen has practiced yoga for eight years and began training as a teacher about a year ago. The punk yoga class started last year to satisfy the community outreach requirement of her training, but it was so popular she’s kept it going. She teaches a flowing Hatha style yoga.
She eschews a fancy studio with mirrored walls for a dark, black-painted nightclub. She banishes rows of yoga mats in favor of a circle arranged around a plate of flickering votive candles. She knows plenty of serious yoga people wouldn’t approve of her methods, but it doesn’t worry her.
“I get new people in off the street every time,” Jensen said. She especially remembers one student who told her, “This is the first physical thing I’ve done where I haven’t felt made a fool of.”
Jensen smiled. “That,” she said, “is what yoga should be.”
After one recent class, students gave punk rock yoga good reviews.
“A lot of yoga classes are really kind of wimpy,” said Janelle Hartman, a hard-core yoga devotee attending her first punk rock yoga class. “She got us really heated up.”
Erik Englund, 28, has been attending Jensen’s classes for about a year. He said the nightclub setting intrigued him, and the health benefits and relaxed atmosphere kept him coming back.
“This felt very unpretentious,” he said. His wife, Amy Wyland, 27, said she likes how she feels after a session of punk rock yoga.
“I feel really relaxed,” Wyland said. “And I’m getting stronger.”
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