Strike a skeleton pose at yoga studio in Pittsburgh’s Allentown
When anxiety starts to overwhelm Kimee Massie, she turns on a little doom jazz, throws down a mat and drops into child’s pose.
Massie and her husband, Scott Massie, both 42, are the founders of BLACK YO)))GA, Vinyasa-style yoga that replaces wind chimes and rippling streams with drone, noise, ambient, industrial and other forms of metallically meditative music.
“It starts with breath,” she explains. “You can learn to calm the body, calm the mind and everything falls into place.”
After years of hosting pop-up classes throughout the city, the Monroeville couple opened their own studio in August in Pittsburgh’s Allentown neighborhood.
The 1,000-square-foot space is on the third floor above the Brashear Association’s Allentown Learning and Engagement Center on East Warrington Avenue. It is cool and dark with black and gray walls adorned with Grim Reapers, hand-painted by Kimee. Candles flicker, illuminating tiny skeletons holding yoga poses.
Hour-long classes for up to 30 people are held every Tuesday at 8 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, but the Massies say “namaste” to folks who pre-register.
Kimee, a certified instructor, leads each session, which are designed for beginners and yoga veterans. Scott curates the atmospheric soundscape, mixing music from bands such as Sunn O))), Earth, Tribes of Neurot, Horseback, Dead Can Dance, Pig Destroyer, Arcana, Lycia, Boris, Portishead and Nine Inch Nails. He features cuts from his own group, Black Yoga Meditation Ensemble.
Music roars from large speakers in the front of the room. The floor vibrates.
Dawn Laufer didn’t feel like she belonged in a traditional yoga class, so she gave up the practice. But, when the Mt. Washington resident discovered BLACK YO)))GA, she instantly connected to it.
“You fit in no matter what you look like. You can have a throat tattoo,” she says, gesturing to the colorful death’s-head moth on her neck. “You can cry and work through your issues and no one says a thing.”
The name BLACK YO)))GA reflects not only the genre of tunes, but the spiritual energy, or chakras, inside the body.
“No one talks about the black chakra — depression, addiction, anxiety, whatever you’re going through,” Kimee Massie says.
A graphic designer by trade, she took up yoga after her son was born with a serious medical condition. The practice brought her peace. Over the next five years, she racked up 200 hours of yoga instructor training, not including specialized classes focused on post traumatic stress disorder.
The only downside to her newfound career was the boring music.
While on a road trip, Scott Massie, who ran a small music collective called Innervenus, put on the album “Midnight Black Earth” by Bohren & Der Club of Gore. It contained the exact kind of hardcore, yet meditative, vibe she was searching for.
They launched BLACK YO)))GA shortly thereafter. The dark slant attracted a lot of men to the female-dominated discipline.
Within the next few months, the Massies will host live music events and release a follow-up to their DVD, “BLACK YO)))GA: Asanas Ritual, Vol. 1.” Through movement and music, they hope to give struggling souls a light in the darkness.