January 19, 2015
by Kate Whittle

In an article recently published in Buddhist magazine Shambhala Sun, Teenage Bottlerocket bassist Miguel Chen talked about his Buddhist faith, yoga and practicing daily meditation, even while relentlessly touring with a pop punk band with songs like “Bloodbath at Burger King.”

This seemed weird to me, even though I’ve been practicing yoga off and on for years now; it always seemed like a part of my life that stands in opposition to going out at night and chugging beers. A meditative yoga lifestyle is probably about as far from the punk rock “live fast die young” ethos as it gets, but Chen’s contemplative attitude reflects a little secret of punk rock that’s becoming not-so-secret anymore. Gasp: we are taking care of ourselves. Sometimes.

The core fanbase of punk rock is aging, which I can’t find any U.S. Census data for, oddly enough, but you can find a lot of essays and documentaries are talking about it, from The Other F Word documentary on punk fatherhood to subreddits like “Can you be ‘too old’ for punk?”

As our 20s turn into our 30s and beyond, I see a lot of punks who are having families, settling down and becoming a wee bit more interested in self-preservation. We might go to Fest, chug countless PBRs and inhale Five Star Pizza for a few days out of the year, but let’s be real, that’s not the norm for our daily lives. If it was, that would be awesome, but I would also be dead.

Anecdotally, I’m getting too old and crabby to stay out late very often, and the punk scene in my neck of the woods is dwindling. But I still like this ridiculous thing called punk rock. So even though I used to think running was the lamest hobby ever, these days you can often find me wearing Lycra, going up a hiking trail while listening to Fidlar sing about cocaine. And I’m not alone.

Punks with contrastingly healthy habits are making the news—when John Joseph from the Cro-Mags published the vegan lifestyle book Meat is For Pussies, it was covered on NPR and reviewed by Mark Bittman. (I find his hyper-dudebro approach off-putting at best and misogynist at worst, but that’s another essay, perhaps.) A cursory Google search turns up at least three “punk yoga” studios in California and Texas. Amazon offers the 2004 book Punk Rock Aerobics: 75 Killer Moves, 50 Punk Classics, And 25 Reasons to Get Off Your Ass and Exercise, along with a smattering of “alternative rock” cardio DVDs.

On Off With Their Heads frontman Ryan Young’s Anxious and Angry podcast, he often talks about how going to the gym and drinking more water has made a huge difference for his mental health, and other guests often join in and talk about their yoga or running habits. On episode 12, Kyle Kinane put it beautifully when he said, “You don’t wanna be the lyrics that you’re singing any more… People very easily diagnose themselves as depressed. And I was like, well wait, let’s see, oh, you eat garbage. You drink all the time. Why don’t we change some of those elements that are clearly problematic, and then see if I still feel shitty?” Kinane recommends jogging, aka “taking my tits out for a shake around the reservoir down the street.”

I’m not saying “health punk” is ever going to be a thing like health goth (if that was even really a thing and not just an Internet joke), but at the risk of sounding uncool, it’s not that weird to make less-destructive habits a part of punk rock. It already is in some established ways, from straight edge’s anti-substances stance to the many small vegan/vegetarian punk cafes and communities. The “We’re Going to Fest” group on Facebook often has long threads discussing ways to ban indoor smoking from the event, which isn’t going to happen unless Florida state law changes, but it’s a worthy sentiment. And taking care of yourself is, in fact, extremely nonconformist in a time when 80 percent of Americans don’t regularly get the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of activity a day.

Going to shows and being part of the punk culture doesn’t have to be inherently self-destructive, despite the outwardly “fuck it all” expressions. What punk ultimately gives us is catharsis; we can feel free, released, and let escape pent-up emotion. Going for a hike or doing pilates can help us achieve the same thing, and it provides us with a way to age (somewhat) gracefully. I’m still going to slam beers when my favorite bands come to town. Everything in moderation… especially moderation.

Kate Whittle is a Montana-based writer and editor at missoulapunknews.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter @kettlemt.