The Black Metal Yogi
By: Tawny Lara
Melody Isis Henry fuses two of her passions: yoga and metal at Lucky 13 Saloon, a heavy metal bar in Park Slope Brooklyn. The Brooklyn native’s Black Metal Yoga class works beautifully, encouraging her students to find their truth by acknowledging the beauty in the light and the dark. Melody got into rock and metal at age 14, spent nearly two decades in the corporate advertising world, then found true happiness in the fitness industry.
Q. On your website, there’s a quote: “Don’t be afraid of death, be afraid of an unlived life.” What does that mean to you?
I think that people are afraid to take chances. I was an advertising executive for 17 years. I was a director of copy in a pretty big firm and made tons of money, but I felt it was so soul-sucking and decided that I wanted to be a yoga teacher. I was doing both for a while, sort of trying to get my head around the idea of not being in the corporate world anymore. I got used to making six figures, and having vacation days, and health insurance. But at the end of the day, leaving that industry and becoming a teacher is so much more fulfilling. Even though I’m broke now, I’m so much happier.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for Black Metal Yoga?
I knew there were people out there who thought yoga was all hippies smelling like patchouli and everyone is wearing Birkenstocks – and they don’t want anything to do with that shit. So, I was like, “What if I put together my love of metal and yoga?” I know a lot of goth chicks that do exercise, they call themselves “health goths” which is just hilarious.
Q. What kind of people typically come to this class?
It’s incredibly varied. I have people that work in all different fields. A lot of people who work office jobs come because they feel really stiff, but they’re not interested in a regular yoga class. Some of the students are people that come to Lucky 13 that are already into that scene. The classes typically sell out the same day I announce them because I only do them a few times a month.
Q. Have you taught yoga consistently since your certification?
I definitely went away from it a few times over the years and kept coming back, trying something new. Then I found Laughing Lotus which was the antithesis of me in so many ways. A pink room and everyone was so, like, “How are you?” and I wanted to punch them in the face. I was in therapy at the time, and my therapist said, “You know, a lot of people have to connect to their shadow side; your shadow side is actually the light side; you’re very connected to your dark side; you need to keep going to the light side and explore what’s making you want to strangle these people.” So I kept going and that was where I got my first yoga teacher training. I like the honesty of people there, though. I thought they were full of shit, but they weren’t. They were just trying their best to be happy people in New York City. Now I teach Sanskrit to new yoga teachers at certain yoga programs, like the Laughing Lotus 200 hour.
Q. Why is metal so important to you?
As a kid I didn’t really listen to a lot of music. My mother was into disco and soul and whatever was big in the ‘70s. One day in junior high school somebody gave me the Iron Maiden record, Killers, and it has this creature on the cover named Eddie who’s holding a hatchet. She said it reminded her of me. I would sit and listen to this record on my mother’s turntable all the time and something clicked in me. Then I met people that were into this type of music. When I was 14 I started going to L’Amour, which was the local rock club in my neighborhood. Bands like The Ramones, Anthrax, and Overkill were playing there constantly. Then bigger bands came through like Motorhead and Wendy O. Williams. She was incredible. She was a huge inspiration for me because I thought, wow, I can wear a leather bra and that’s fine.
Q. You saw Wendy O. Williams at 14?!
The age to get into L’Amour was 16 in the ‘80s, and the drinking age was 18, but no one checked IDs or anything. I easily passed for 18. I used to wear so much makeup and had my hair teased up. I didn’t have a father, and my mother was never there. I grew up in the clubs.
Q. You end your class with a beautiful sentiment of acknowledging lightness and darkness instead of the traditional “namaste.” What inspired that?
It’s different every time, but I say something about bowing down to the light and the dark in each other. As a Sanskrit instructor, I know that “Namaste” can mean various different things. Many Sanskrit words can be translated in different ways and I’m not sure where “the light” came from. I think that’s a nice thing for a lot of people to acknowledge the light in each other. However, there’s no way to ignore the dark in us. We are all two sides. There is no possibility that we can be all light all the time. People that try to be all light all the time are shutting down a natural part of themselves, and probably wind up doing something unexpected or just blow up. We have to acknowledge that life is not all fun and games. It’s not all sunshine, and I think that it is important for people to embrace the shitty things that happen as well as the good things.
Q. I appreciate you adding that level of realness. It’s so refreshing to see you and the class that you teach bringing such a unique approach to yoga.
Thank you. We don’t all shit rainbows.
Q. I would love to meet one person who shits a rainbow.
Some people really act like they do, though, which is one of the reasons I can’t teach in a yoga studio. I teach almost exclusively at Crunch and at the bar. I do some corporate classes and then I do my own thing. But I just can’t teach in a studio.
Q. Does your approach to yoga attract any haters?
Vice did a little vignette on me and the amount of people that said shitty things about me was incredible. I was just amazed at how many people that have never met me could say such nasty things. I couldn’t believe the hatred that comes out on the Internet. I’m definitely a Sagittarius and I definitely will tell you what I think. If you take me shopping, I will definitely tell you if you look fat in that dress. I try to surround myself with people that are similar.
Q. What was it like teaching Black Metal Yoga at the Bali Spirit Festival?
The woman who runs the festival reached out to me, requesting I come teach there. I was worried that I’d walk in to teach the class and people would want me to be a f***ing ray of sunshine and that’s just not who I am. I didn’t think anyone would come. My class was the only thing like it on the schedule. Everything else was literally Shitting Rainbows 101. But people showed up and loved it! I met a woman from Australia who had been trying to start up heavy metal yoga, but nobody was interested. There was a woman who said her husband agreed to come to Bali Spirit Fest with her, only if they could go to my metal yoga class. It was amazing!
Q. The theme of this issues is truth. What does truth mean to you?
I have a tattoo of the Japanese symbol for truth on my forearm. I think truth is the most important thing in life. When I’m dating someone new, I tell them the one thing I need from them is honesty. If I mess up, I’m going to tell you. Truth is scary. People aren’t truthful with themselves which is an even bigger issue. I wish more people would stop and think “does my life make me happy?” If people aren’t truthful with themselves, how can they live an honest life?
Learn more about Melody @lucky13queen // melodyofyoga.com