I tried metal yoga and it was actually amazing

When I say the word “yoga class,” what comes to mind?

Chances are, your brain is conjuring up a bunch of basic bitches with pastel-colored yoga mats and Lululemon leggings, who are hitting up some quick sun salutations before grabbing avocado toast. And if you go to a typical NYC yoga class, you’re not that far off-base.

And there’s nothing wrong with the girls who shop at Lululemon or wear shirts that say “Namaslay,” but it might not be your thing.

If you’ve ever wanted a yoga class that isn’t filled with sorority sisters, perhaps you’d like Metal Yoga.

Metal Yoga was the brain child of Saskia Thode, a German yoga instructor who looks like a cross between a Victoria’s Secret Angel and a tattoo artist. She’s been teaching metal yoga (along with more traditional types of yoga) since 2014.

When I walked into The Cobra Club one Wednesday evening to take her class, I wasn’t so surprised at the fact that I was the only person without visible tattoos, and I internally thanked myself for having the sense to wear black leggings and a dark purple tank instead of something brighter. I wasn’t even totally surprised that we were encouraged to bring beers into the yoga “studio” – but I was surprised at what followed.

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You see, I had assumed that metal yoga was just going to be regular yoga set to metal music. I was very wrong.

The class began with cardio – like, serious cardo – the kind of cardio you don’t expect to get from a yoga class. I immediately regretted only wearing one sports bra as Saskia started jumping around in front of the class to death metal. And instead of the weird breathing exercises you traditionally do in the beginning of a yoga class, we screamed. Or, growled, depending on how you describe the low groan that you hear from dudes like Rob Zombie.

When we did get into more traditional yoga poses or flows, they were altered slightly. Instead of palms open, Saskia’s hands folded into the “rock on” symbol. Every time a leg was lifted in a pose, Saskia used her free hand to strum her leg like it was an electric guitar. Oh, and the growls were done in sync with the poses.

“I usually have a rough idea of what I want to do in class, especially in regards to yoga poses,” Saskia explained to me. “[But] all the fun stuff is improvised and I make things up as we go along. It is totally depending on the music and the mood of the group and myself.”

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These weren’t the only distinctions from a regular yoga class, there were times when the class took such a swift turn from yoga that I forgot it was supposed to be a yoga class at all. Take, for example, when Saskia had us go into Warrior III and she then hopped around the room and tried to push us over while we attempted to balance in the position. There was another moment when she and a student (who was clearly a regular) play-fought while balancing on one foot for a good minute.

Oh, and as if I didn’t feel like enough of an outcast in the beginning when I realized that I was devoid of tats, piercings (navel piercings def don’t count here), or a knowledge of any of the bands we were listening to in class – I then had to get up at the front of the class and start instructing.

Well, kind of.

About 20 minutes into the class, Saskia started tapping members of the “audience” to take her place in the front and lead the class. Thankfully, most people only stayed up there for 10-30 seconds and did one activity, and by the time she tapped on me I already knew what my “move” would be. I stole a punching maneuver we used to do in a kickboxing class I took in college and did that – I didn’t have the balls to scream in unison with the actions.

But even though I felt like an outsider at the beginning (or simply not hardcore enough – something I frequently feel at concerts), that changed throughout the class. After really letting go – screaming and kicking and punching and jumping, not to mention all the sweating (it was really hot that day and there didn’t seem to be any AC) – it kind of felt like we were all in it together.

And, after a not-so-peaceful Savasana with some bizarre metal track in the background, Saskia invited us all to stick around and get drinks. I ended up chilling at Cobra Club for a few hours with Saskia, one of her regulars (the one she was fighting with earlier), and another girl who was attending her first class like me.

All in all, I felt like I had gotten a way better workout than I get in a traditional yoga class, and I had way more fun. An enjoyment of metal is a necessity – but you don’t need to be able to name all 16 Iron Maiden albums or have a full tatt sleeve to have a good time. I don’t normally listen to metal, but I always love it for a workout playlist. And Saskia uploads all the playlists onto the Metal Yoga website so you can download any tracks you dig.

Metal yoga didn’t feel like a workout class, it felt like a concert. When the lights came on after Savasana and the music shut off, we were all sweaty and laughing like we had just been to best show ever.

Plus, the classes are only $12 – way more affordable and fun than SoulCycle, and way less basic!

Saskia teaches Metal Yoga three times a week in Brooklyn – find out more here

All photos by Anders Ahlgren

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