June 14, 2015

Confessions of an 80s Rock Chick Yoga Teacher.


Before the days of $90 lululemon yoga pants, we wore $10 David Lee Roth-style leopard print stretchies, neck-sliced-out flea market neon tees and jelly shoes.

My name is Anna Maria and I was an 80s rock chick.

These days, I spend my time teaching yoga and studying Buddhism instead of making mix tapes, but I’m still rock ‘n’ roll at heart. I’ve been a yoga instructor since 2002, but I’ve been a Van Halen fan since 1987.

I know all of the words to Def Leppard’s “Photograph” and every pose in the Ashtanga yoga sequence by heart. I love both of these things equally. I’m like Arnold Palmer—who doesn’t love both lemonade and iced tea?

I’m on the road right now, and in my suitcase, I currently have the following items:

One slinky leopard print bandage dress.
One pair of white patent leather stilettos.
One pair of bright pink yoga pants. (They bridge the gap!)
Two boxes of incense.
Buddhist prayer flags.
Yoga mala beads.

Along the way, I’ve known people who frowned upon my affinity for 80s hair metal bands. I’ve been the butt of more than a few jokes by my hardcore granola colleagues in the yoga community, but I’m a yogi, so I forgive them.

I was even married to someone who hated the genre—I’d be sneaky and only listen to it in my Volvo while running errands alone.

If you and I ever cross paths—and we might, because I’m on tour, teaching yoga across North America through the summer of 2016—odds are you’ll hear an 80s power ballad or two in my class. I taught at a popular yoga studio in Boston for a few years and two things happened frequently:

My younger students would affectionately (I think) refer to me as “the lady with the 80s music.”
Clients my age and older referred to me as “the Joan Jett of Vinyasa.”

Both still make me smile.

Back then, I’d comb the coolest, cheapest mall stores for the perfect pleather skirt and bangle bracelets with the determination and fervor found only in a teenage girl who fixated on Tommy Lee—and later found in a woman who could hold pigeon or fish pose for days. I bought a tie-died ensemble featuring a matching crop top and the tiniest skirt ever made, a white spandex dress with a lace back and a black catsuit that had a long zipper all the way up the front.

The really fun outfits were the ones I’d doctor up myself after poring through the pages of Metal Edge and Hit Parader magazines. I chopped up a Budweiser T-shirt, paired it with my Daisy Duke cutoff shorts and a pair of round John Lennon sunglasses, and rocked them out with some fringe-laden suede boots. Topping it all off was my almighty black leather jacket, compliments of Wilson’s Leather at the outdoor mall.

More often than not, I’d head around the corner and get dressed at a friend’s house, shielding my poor mom from the glam rock fashion show. We’d crank a Motley Crüe album, slather on mud masks, eat everything out of her parents’ fridge and then sneak out to go “bowling.” (Boy, did we bowl a lot back then.) In actuality, we’d wind up at a club known as “The Rocker Room” in the suburbs of NYC. We’d sneak in with fake IDs and huge grins, barely able to conceal our excitement.

We drank wine coolers and 40 ounce beers at a lake in our hometown. We spent hours on hold on our parents’ landlines or on a physical line at the local Ticketmaster window. We spent months plotting and scheming how to get ourselves to and from the Brendan Byrne Arena for the Guns N’ Roses show where Blind Melon was the opener.

How about the time I reserved a limo for myself and a gaggle of friends that took us to see Van Halen in style? (Yes, it was a white limo.) We even hid a case of beer around the corner from my house underneath a mailbox. Classy.

My first car was a 1986 Chevy Camaro with a tape deck loaded up with something called “cassingles.” Remember those?

I religiously attended band rehearsals after school, but not the marching band type—I’m talking suburban basements where a friend’s older brother and his entourage were plotting their takeover of MTV.

My first boyfriend had long, shiny black hair, played guitar and had a full-sized pinball machine in his bedroom. He drove fast, gave me a pager and taught me how to fire a pistol into a phone book. What can I say? I liked bad boys.

My high school yearbook quote includes the phrase: “Thanks, Axl.” Yup, I thanked Axl Rose.

These days, I’m a grown-up yoga instructor, but I don’t think I’ll ever fully shed my 80s rock chick self, and I’m cool with that. If along the way some of my students get a kick out of my playlists, I’m managing to stay true to myself and igniting a little fun in the studio. Besides, I’ve observed firsthand how levity comes in handy when people get competitive in power yoga.

I’m embracing my duality, my 1:1 ratio of granola to 80s rock. Some observations:

1. I still wear stretch pants—as a matter of fact, I have to for my job. Awesome!

2. After a hot yoga class, I look like Alice Cooper with mascara running down my face.

3. I use songs by Warrant and Bon Jovi in my power yoga playlists.

4. I’m still a sucker for a sexy pair of black suede stiletto boots.

5. Every year, I hand paint my Easter eggs to look like the members of Kiss.

6. I still love me a good rock ‘n’ roll tell-all book. (Right now, it’s Stevie Nicks.)

7. When I rent a car, I always get satellite radio just to listen to a station called “Hair Nation.”

8. I saw the band “Firehouse” in concert six months ago and it was so much fun, still!

9. I’m going to see Def Leppard in concert at Jones Beach in six weeks and can’t wait.

10. I’m dating a drummer. He also studies yoga. Upon learning we were an item, one of his friends described me as a “rock chick yogi.”

Need I say more?


Author: Anna Maria Giambanco

Editor: Evan Yerburgh

Image: Flickr

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