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December 4, 2012
Twin Cities: When these geeks do yoga, it's loud and often in costume
St. Paul Pioneer Press 11/1/2012
Remember those nerdy kids who were miserable in gym class?
Well, they've grown up and started their own gym class.
Called Geek Physique, it's a Twin Cities-based club that aims to pry the techy/sci-fi/comic book/gamer/fantasy community away from their computer screens and virtual worlds with fitness activities that have a geeky spin.
Imagine taking that viral YouTube video of the kid practicing his light saber moves and reinterpreting it as a workout. That would be Geek Physique.
A subset of the Twin Cities-based Geek Partnership Society, Geek Physique is organized through Meetup.com and boasts about 450 members. The club tries to put on event every three days, according to organizer Kerry McCartney of St. Paul.
Club activities have included Nerf dart tag and archery sessions with targets featuring sci-fi characters like the villainous Daleks from Dr. Who or the irritating Jar Jar Binks from the Star Wars franchise.
There have been belly dancing classes with sci-fi theme music and Klingon Batl'leth training, using foam rubber versions of the fearsome edged weapons featured in the Star Trek universe.
There's also been disc golf.
"It's kind of geeky in itself, so we don't put much of a spin on that," McCartney said.
But one of the most popular Geek Physique offerings has been Yoga Quest, a mashup of role playing, fan fiction and yoga.
Yoga Quest sessions start with a script written by club member Jenny
Milos of Woodbury, inspired by geeky themes that can range from Harry Potter to Monty Python to Xena: Warrior Princess.
During the class, McCartney, typically dressed in costume, narrates the script while Minneapolis yoga instructor Justine Mastin leads the exercisers through yoga poses inspired by the characters.
"We have a tribute to Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos' coming out," McCartney said. "I'll be wearing a turtle neck and a corduroy jacket and doing my worst Carl Sagan imitation."
Mastin said she got the idea for Yoga Quest while attending the Twin Cities' CONvergence science fiction convention a couple of years ago and wondered how to make yoga more palatable to sci-fi fans.
"Geeks need yoga," she said.
But according to Milos, many geeks are happy to grapple with dungeons and dragons, but they wouldn't be caught dead in a regular yoga class.
"Geeks get bored very, very quickly," McCartney said.
Then Mastin wondered what would happen if you took yoga poses out of the studio and set them in the middle of a Tolkien novel.
"What if you are in Middle-earth and you are the tree?" Mastin said.
The result is a form of yoga that punctures the solemn serenity of the typical yoga class.
For example, vocal participation has become a tradition in Yoga Quest, with participants mooing during the cow pose, meowing in cat pose, barking in downward dog and for some reason, quacking during the crescent moon pose.
"A lot of yoga studios don't like you to kid around," McCartney said. "We take the yoga seriously, but we don't take anything else particularly seriously."
Costumes are welcome at Yoga Quest sessions, which are held in part of a converted warehouse space in Northeast Minneapolis. About 30 self-proclaimed geeks showed up for a recent session that featured a screening of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" choreographed to yoga poses. There were a lot more fishnet stockings than your average yoga class.
There was also a woman in a "Ghostbusters" outfit, a man in a satin leopard print toga and a woman dressed as animated character Rainbow Brite. "This is an excuse to do yoga and be a dork at the same time," said Jesse Van Gunst, who came to the Rocky Horror yoga show wearing a toy chain saw attached to his hand in tribute to the "Evil Dead" film franchise.
"Most other yoga classes are 'om'-y or boring, where this is more ridiculous and more animal sounds," said Kearn Kirkwood, a computer programmer. "It makes exercising entertaining and it ends up being yoga in which you laugh during the entire thing."
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