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Meet Alissa Nelson of Black Metal Yoga in Torrance and South Bay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alissa Nelson.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was not a yoga person when I started. I was a 20-something punk/hardcore nut, had just quit grad school, was working a few part-time jobs around St. Louis (including in a record store) and for some reason, decided to sign up for a beginner’s series at a local community center. Yoga became a regular part of my life for the next few years, as I went back to school for social work and public health, helping me deal with the everyday stress of school and work.

After graduation, I moved to San Francisco to start my first social work job. Soon after the move, I was raped by an acquaintance and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. A few months after the assault, my therapist suggested I try out one of the donation-based classes in the city and soon, I was going to three or four classes every week. I wasn’t miraculously healed, but it was incredibly helpful to have a safe emotional container during those turbulent and stressful times.

I was considering taking a yoga teacher training to add some of the yoga tools to my social work toolkit when I first heard about a metal yoga class in Highland Park. I was so inspired that I signed up for training just days later, and in 2014 I taught my first tiny black metal yoga class in a living room in San Francisco.

I moved to LA in 2016 and have taught seven black metal yoga classes here in the last year, including at Desert Daze in Joshua Tree last October. It’s amazing to connect with people in this way, using music as an entry point to help people connect with their bodies. These classes feel like a community to me and I’m happy to see people come to multiple classes and get to know them better. I want this practice to be accessible to anyone, and to help others get in touch with all parts of themselves, even the difficult and frightening parts that we tend to hide from others.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Definitely not.

When I first started teaching in SF, I rented a space for a couple of months to host weekly black metal yoga classes, since I knew that it would be a hard sell to an established studio. I flyered all over town and pushed events on Facebook and nobody showed up. Every week I would put together a playlist, open the studio, set up lights, then, practice my sequence alone for the next hour.

These days, it’s a challenge to balance full-time work and teaching, but I like to let the practices inform one another. I feel like my life is a yogic practice of getting into right relationship with the world, and I want that to touch every part of what I do. There is a tremendous amount of trauma and injustice in the world and if I can be a tiny part of healing that, then, I feel like I’m on the right path regardless of the difficulties. Yoga is one of the tools I can use for that, and that’s really cool.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Alissa Nelson/Black Metal Yoga – what should we know?
I teach yoga, mostly vinyasa flow style. Because I have a background in music (from 20 years of punk shows, college radio, DJing and wide-ranging record collecting), I put a lot of emphasis on music. My black metal yoga classes are darker, with heavier music (playlist regulars include Neurosis, Deafheaven, Wolves in the Throne Room and Sunn0) and a focus on building resiliency in the face of challenge. I work hard to keep my classes to all bodies, regardless of gender, size, shape, whatever. I love the diversity of my students and their experiences and that they appreciate my honest and forthright approach to mental health.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I”m a super curious person and I love learning, so that has led me to seek out a lot of additional knowledge, both through training and learning in my spare time. I am also at heart a very VERY type-A person who spends a lot of time planning, but my experiences have taught me that life likes to fuck with you. That means, that I put a lot of energy into intelligent sequencing but find a lot of options based on who’s in the room at the moment.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
J Matt

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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