Black Yoga: Seeking Higher Meditation in Heavy Metal

By Gregg Harrington, Point Park News Service

Yoga is a calm and soothing way of combining exercise with meditation. But Kimee and Scott Massie see it differently.

“I wanted to target that crowd that would never do yoga,” Kimee says. “I think they would benefit from it.”

That crowd Massie speaks of is drawn into the couple’s slyly-branded Black Yoga. The couple conducts the Eastern meditation of yoga to a heavy metal soundtrack.

Catering to true connoisseurs of metal, the music focuses on subgenres such as drone, industrial, and stoner metal – all of which replace the speed and aggression of traditional heavy metal with slow precision and ambiance.

Both Kimee and Scott have helped Pittsburgh-based bands by releasing music under the local music label Innervenus Music Collective for over 10 years, and Kimee has been teaching yoga for around two years. The marriage of the two drastically different lifestyles, they said, just made sense.

“We realized they go together a lot,” Scott said of the unusual combination.

After reading extensively on the subject of yoga, he said participants of Black Yoga should be able to find peace and balance in soundtracks that are anything but normal to traditional practitioners.

“Yoga is about individual mind and spirit, so you should be comfortable with your surroundings and the music,” he said.

The inaugural Black Yoga class took place Oct. 2 at the Nadia Salon in Shadyside. Kimee noticed an interesting dynamic in the room: out of the 10 participants, six were men and four were women.

“It’s usually the other way around,” she notes.

The partnership with Nadia started when Kimee stopped in to receive a haircut from stylist Lee Barton, also a member of local metal band Vega. Kimee casually mentioned the idea of Black Yoga during her haircut, and Barton proposed holding the class in the salon. With its hardwood floors and easy-moving furniture, Nadia seemed like a perfect fit according to the Massies.

“How unlikely is it to go to a yoga class at a hair salon?” Scott asks. “I’ve been to yoga studios that aren’t that nice.”

While Kimee handles the yoga portion of the experience, Scott, as he says, “handles the black.” The soundtracks for each class are put together by Scott and friend Chad Hammitt, a member of local electronic group Agnes Wired For Sound. The approach is simple: the two sit around and listen to music, and if a song strikes a chord and feels proper for the class, they put it in a playlist and later organize it to fit the flow of Kimee’s teachings.

“There’s a whole other section of people like myself that don’t want to hear birds and waterfalls and didgeridoos while they’re meditating,” Scott says.

While the general movements and poses of Black Yoga do not differ from typical classes, the mood does. The name itself brings a few different connotations. The word “black” initially creates a pun from the genre black metal, but also reflects the color of the chakra, a color concept that goes along with yoga.

“Usual yoga classes are based on colors of the chakra,” Kimee explains. “We went with black because that color isn’t used in your typical yoga class.”

Invoking the color black in the class brings a different mood, one that is generally darker too.

“That’s how some people meditate, to gloomier and darker music,” she adds.

The duo is debating the idea of taking Black Yoga on the road in the springtime after running classes locally. The classes would mimic a band playing nightly shows, with multiple day stints in each city.

They said they hope the idea would stick with people in other cities who would also take it upon themselves to run Black Yoga classes on a regular basis across the country. Another idea being thrown around by Scott and Kimee is composing original music for each class, and potentially having live music to accompany classes.

“It’s not like we’re trying to horde it for ourselves,” Kimee said. “We want to share it with everyone.”

Editor’s note: Black Yoga classes take place Tuesdays at Nadia Salon, Shadyside, and Wednesdays at the Commonwealth Press Warehouse, South Side. Thursday classes are scheduled to begin in November at Fonzi’s Synergy Fitness, West Mifflin.

:: For more information: blackyoga.blogspot.com.

Bands to check out before trying Black Yoga:

Sunn O)))
Earth
Portishead
Nine Inch Nails
Aphex Twin
Horseback
Wolves in the Throne Room

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