The Neil Young fan was angry.
In this space last week, I wrote about Neil Young’s interview with Adam Greene on NHPR, and how I felt that Young’s music, like the practice of yoga, can help us all feel a little more deeply what it’s like to be human. My column raised the ire of at least one Neil Young fan for what he felt was an “attempt to promote your own yoga biz with an alleged Neil Young article.” He also pointed out that Rust Never Sleeps is not a song title, but the title of a live album, released in 1979.
I’d like to address both of these points this week. First, a correction. The lyrics I quoted were, as I should have been more careful to note, from “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue),” the opening track from Rust Never Sleeps. Second, and perhaps more importantly, I’d like to make clear my intention in writing this column. I’ll quote a portion of my response to the email I received from that very passionate Neil Young fan:
“My column is about finding yoga in the everyday world. I happen to be a working musician, so music and yoga fit naturally for me. I also run a yoga and Pilates studio, it’s true. The business of yoga has become inseparable from how I view the world. My intention is to see yoga in our everyday lives, and shine a light there. If folks would like to come to Hot House NH, or any other yoga studio, I believe their lives, and the world, will be better for it.”
The world is a noisy place. The internet is even noisier. This workout is better than that workout. This yoga is more effective than that yoga. I’d simply offer this advice: The best fitness plan is the one that you do. The one that you practice consistently. The one that makes you feel good. I believe that yoga is different from exercise, though I’ll tackle that subject in another column, on another day. I also believe that the practice of yoga can help make your body, your mind and the world a better place in which to live.
I exchanged emails with the reader who took exception to my column last week. He was unaware that “The Yogi” was a regular column about yoga. He heard the same interview with Neil Young, at the same time, and was also sitting in his car that morning. He also mentioned that he was at the old “Boston Gah’dn” back in 1978 for the Rust Never Sleeps tour. I began to realize that, although we may look at the world differently, we probably had a lot more in common than not.
After our email exchanges, I listened to the 38 minutes of Rust Never Sleeps. I turned it up. All the way. I’ve always been partial to the acoustic side of Neil Young’s music, so those first four songs were familiar and sweet. And then came the second four. The distortion and massiveness of the electric guitars, and the punch and power of the band, made my heart race. It felt a little like a storm raging. It was a little uncomfortable, but I took it in. It’s an amazing piece of rock ‘n roll history, but also holds all the rawness of rock ‘n roll then and now. The album finishes with “Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black).” It is in some ways the same song as “My, My, Hey, Hey (Out of the Blue),” but it’s not. It grabs you from the start, the guitars like slabs of New Hampshire granite crashing into Franconia Notch. It rages for five minutes. Then it is over.
It’s those two extremes, the acoustic and the electric sides of Neil Young, that reminds me a lot of the practice of yoga. On the yoga mat, we work to balance effort with ease, grace with grit and movement with stillness. We walk the line between comfort and discomfort. We challenge ourselves to be here now.
There is no reference to yoga in Neil Young’s music, books or movies, at least none that I’m aware of. The inference comes from my own observations, my own life in music, and my own practice of yoga. When I look back on that first email from the “angry Neil Young fan,” I see why my column may have missed its mark. But as I stomped around an empty yoga room, with Neil Young and Crazy Horse turned up to 11, I felt something that I believe more strongly every day: Yoga, like music, can transcend our differences, and bring us closer together, if only for a moment.
See you in the yoga room, friends. And if you like the music, turn it up.
(Mike Morris is the owner of Hot House NH Yoga & Pilates.)