I grew up on punk rock, on the idealism of the Subhumans, Fugazi, and Bad Religion and the f**k-it mentality of Black Flag and NOFX.
I’m old now and in my forties, but you can still find me cranking The Cramps, X and Alice Donut.
If I had to say in one word what punk rock is all about, that word would be Against: Against the superficial view that the mainstream media feeds us. Against the idea that life is about making money and amassing stuff. Against taking anything too seriously.
It was from punk rock that I learned the importance of thinking things through for myself and not accept anything blindly.
The same message that resonated with me as a teenager when I was first coming to grips with the world still hits home today: The way things are is wrong. We are more distracted and misled than ever, blinded by marketers, PR firms and 24 hour news channels, and we get completely absorbed in our time-wasting gadgets or image or whatever makes up our tiny little worlds. And it’s unacceptable because it’s causing damage—to everything.
The difference between then and now is that now, I express my rebellion through yoga.
Life is not about money, prestige and possessions—says punk, says yoga. It’s about being here. Having the experience. Living authentically from the very core of your being, fearlessly. It’s about your sangha, your scene, the people who do right by you and doing right by them. It’s about having a good time and shining a great big f*&king light on hypocrisy and injustice. It’s about altered states of consciousness. It’s about poking holes in the façade. And it is all about not being brainwashed, being awake to what is really going on.
“Be awake“, says yoga. Overcome your ignorance. See what is really going on. Figure out where sh*t’s gone haywire in your own brain and fix it. Don’t fall blindly into habits. Make every act intentional.
Punk rock can sometimes feel like a frustrated scream into the wind, get depressing and lead to spiraling out of control, but yoga has its dark side, too—it’s only just slightly more hidden.
The bad news that happens in a punk scene is overt: people get addicted, they O.D., they go to jail. There is outright violence, untreated mental illness and suicide. In yoga, there’s snobbery, flattery, spiritual one-upsmanship, thin-shaming, fat-shaming, a**hole capitalists selling $100 yoga pants and teachers abusing and raping their students—all hidden behind the Om.
Give me a straightforward gutter punk over a self-righteous rapist any day.
Yoga has been punk rock from the beginning. The keshins and vratya from Vedic times were wandering spiritual seekers who were outcasts because they refused to follow society’s rules in their search for the truth.
And what could be more punk than Tantra? Culture, it tells us, is made up. We can undermine the constructs by breaking taboos. Break the rules and see for yourself. (I am simplifying to make a comparison. There is far more to Tantra than this.)
And Shiva, Lord of Yoga, is punk as f*&k. Naked, smeared with the ashes of the dead, walking through the world not giving one single solitary f*&k. His followers sleep in cremation grounds and use skulls for begging bowls. Outside society’s conventions? Yes, I think that qualifies.
Of course there are differences. Punk flails around, it’s heart full of anger. It’s aggressive, abrasive and rude. It wants the world to change. Yoga sits still; heart full of love. It wants to change only the yogi.
I was lucky enough to be part of an incredible, talented scene. We were isolated in a small, very republican Arizona town. We were outcasts, full on freaks. We hung together like our lives depended on it, and sometimes they did.
We were family (dysfunctional and angsty, but family) and the camaraderie was intense in those broken down trailers and at those generator-powered all-night desert shows. For all the sh*t going on around us, together we were safe, happy and alive to the present moment.
And that is what I find in yoga: fearlessness, contentment, joy and spontaneity. For me, yoga is another way of telling the world (if more politely), “F*&k you very much. I refuse to run myself ragged in pursuit of the superficial. I refuse to conform. I am going to do what I think is right no matter what you think about it.”
Punk. F*&king. Rock.
~Author: Amy Vaughn
Editor: Alli Sarazen
Photo: Gregor Fischer/Flickr