On a grey but spring-like Sunday, Yoga Sleuth exited an unfamiliar stop on the L train in search of the Cobra Club. At first, it seemed like there were nothing but warehouses around me. Then I spotted some stylish twenty-somethings bearing coffee cups and saw the sign for my destination. Bushwick has always seemed like this to me: blocks of nothing and then sprinkles of fabulous, creative, and trendy businesses. You never know what you’ll find (although, these days it seems there are far fewer blocks of nothing).
I had become curious about Metal Yoga after a friend told me about a special event happening at St. Vitus in Greenpoint that would feature a clothing swap as well as Metal Yoga with Saskia Thode. I couldn’t make it to that event, but I wondered about this Metal Yoga. Many classes I attend have no music at all, let alone metal. For my own practice at home, I often play more lively music (though no metal), and I was interested to see what other metal elements the class might incorporate.
I also wanted to find out more about the Cobra Club. From Saskia’s Facebook page, I found that she teaches two Metal Yoga classes there every week. Cobra Club describes itself as a bar, coffee shop, yoga studio, and venue (indeed, the website was ripe with interesting shows coming up: music, comedy, burlesque). The website says: “These are all the things we love in life, and we have brought them together in one space to coexist and compliment one another.”
Entering the Club that day, my first impression was that of a bar. People were drinking beer and playing pool and having leisurely Sunday afternoon cocktails. I followed the sign at the back of the bar that said “studio” and found a separate space with gleaming wood floors, fancy lights, and a decent sized stage at the front. Saskia held court in the center of the room, helping several new students fill out forms.
Once everyone was settled, we found a comfortable seat, and Saskia told us that today’s class would feature detoxifying heart openers and twists. It was then that I thought perhaps it was going to be just like most other yoga classes, just in a less conventional space with and more tattooed yogis. But then she mentioned that twists and heart openers would help with everyone’s hangovers from the night before, and I thought - ok, maybe this will be a little different. I had never heard a teacher mention practicing with a hangover, though many of us have probably been there at one time or another!
On the website it also says that Cobra Club yoga classes don’t include chanting or Sanskrit names for poses, so I wasn’t surprised when Saskia said we wouldn’t be beginning with a group “Om.” She said instead we would be taking three “death growls.” This is a loud and booming “roar” often used in death metal music. Lifting our arms above our heads, we inhaled and roared together loudly. As a singer obsessed with protecting my vocal chords, I opted for more of a sigh than a roar, but it was still a fun release. I could sense the other students in the room relaxing after that (especially the new ones).
We began with Downward Dog and continued with a fairly traditional flow. We took several twists (first in a low lunge, then high lunge and later on our backs) and heart openers (Devotional Warrior was my favorite, but we also took Bridge Pose and Camel). Saskia’s instruction was clear and easy to follow, and her sense of humor kept the mood light and fun.
Also on the Cobra Club website, it says: “There is no advanced yoga class and no beginner class… our practice consists of simple, basic poses that will help ease tension and provide a respite from our hectic lives.” I found this to be true of Saskia’s class. While I’m sure it was challenging for the beginners in the room (especially holding Chair and Warrior Two for several breaths), I believe it was quite accessible for everyone.
The playlist throughout class was metal music. I never listen to this type of music (and didn’t recognize a single song) and was wondering if it would be distracting. It really wasn’t. I sensed that several of my fellow yogis were enjoying it quite a bit - in fact, I heard a student ask Saskia where she could find the playlist after class. The truth is that musical tastes are so subjective that it makes yoga class music a little tricky. Since the music is actually alluded to in the name of this class, no one can really complain.
Since I didn’t wear my contacts to class and had removed my glasses for the flow, it took me a long time to realize that we were supposed to have our fingers in a “sign of the horns” whenever the arms were stretched over the head. This means that the index and little fingers are extended while the thumb holds down the middle and ring fingers. Popularized by the band Black Sabbath in the 70s, this gesture is apparently often used by fans and performers at metal concerts. It was fun to try it with Warrior 1 and high lunge!
As class came to a close (we took Savasana to a flute laden metal song...more peaceful but still rockin’), we sat in our tall seat once again. This time, instead of “Om,” Saskia instructed us to “howl at the moon like wolves.” She said she didn’t want little puppy wolves, but strong, loud and hungry ones. Horns outstretched, I howled at that moon, and realized I was hungry.
Leaving the studio, I ordered a cappuccino from the bartender next to where an adorable and bearded rock band was being photographed. It’s true that you never know what you’ll find in Bushwick, exiting Metal Yoga class.
-Abby Payne for Yoga Sleuth
Single drop-in classes are $13. For a limited time, students can also purchase an unlimited monthly membership for $65/month.