By a chance encounter I met Australian-born yoga instructor, Jo Smith, at the relaunch of The Jericho Tavern last year. I had no idea that months later I would be seeing her again in the same room to try out one of her yoga classes.
I know what you might be thinking, “who isn’t a yoga instructor these days?” and I agree. But Jo’s style of yoga is a little less conventional – it’s yoga whilst listening to punk rock music, and these sessions tend to be held in places like pubs and music venues.
The one thing I loved about this class, with Jo at the helm, is about how oddly calming it was. The punk rock playlist seemingly created a more relaxed atmosphere by breaking down norms which people usually associate with yoga. For instance, I’ve tried a few yoga classes before and have never felt more stressed in my life. I have awkward memories of trying to create a kind of abstract plant position with my physical form whilst listening to the sound of some sort of ocean wave compilation, reminding me of how chilled and zen I should be. Instead I was a sweaty mess at the back of the class watching all the insta-ready yoga elites (#ladieswholatte) show off their flexability. “This is bullshit” I recall thinking. This time round I came equipped with my Patti Smith t-shirt and had a completely different experience.
Jo explained after class that she started ballet dancing at the age of four, teaches yoga, and still can’t get her foot behind her head. Jo’s methods are much more practical and realistic as she encourages her classes to sit in positions in which they feel comfortable. No judgement. After class I couldn’t help but overhear some girls remarking how great they thought the session was, and my favourite point was that “it wasn’t boring” – naturally this delighted our teacher, and so it should.
I couldn’t help but be in a state of awe when talking to Jo – she’s incredibly honest and open about her personal experieces with anxiety which is why she focuses her classes on meditation, stretching, and relaxation. She believes that yoga is a useful tool for dealing with life’s stresses and it’s had a positive impact on her well-being by making your body and mind in tune with one another, which is what she hopes to share with others.
“I think people can take yoga a bit too seriously, and the punk rock music makes it accessible. When I was growing up I didn’t know anyone who had anxiety, so over time I found ways to cope. Everyone has a different type of anxiety like from a traumatic experience, but mine’s not that. I began thinking ‘what can I do to make myself feel better? What is in my control as a human being?’ My Grandfather said to my mother, which she said to me, ‘the only person who can help you, is you’ and that’s really stuck with me. So with yoga, and in general, I believe that by focusing on yourself you can have a positive effect on other people because I think people are more drawn to a positive person,” Jo explained.
When Jo’s not teaching yoga she works in Internal Comms for children and young people at Surrey County Council. Council work by day and yoga instructor after hours seemed to be a huge contrast to me at first, until she said: “I only want to work for organisations that benefit the community and have a positive output.” And just when I thought she couldn’t get any cooler it turns out that Jo also teaches yoga classes at KNRD Fest which is a Punk Rock festival in Germany. Bloody brilliant.
If Punk Rock Yoga seems up your street, Jo’s hoping to return to the Jericho once a month and then hopefully secure a more frequent slot. To book a class (and I highly recommend that you do) or for further information, visit badjuju.eu/punkrockyoga.
Peace out x