Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Health

A darker path tolightness

Eric Wheeler strummed the notes of The Cure's The Drowning Man as his 15 students lay in a corpse pose on their mats, looking up at the ceiling and paintings of sports heroes and grapefruit.

"I've only been playing for a year and half," said Wheeler, 44, of Tampa. "I always like to play during Shavasana because I've got a captive ­audience."

The melancholic tune was one of many used to help move bodies during Wheeler's weekly Dark Wave Yoga class at Tempus Projects, a Seminole Heights non-profit gallery dedicated to hosting local artists.

Bands on the continuous playlist can include Joy Division, Morrissey and Nine inch Nails. Wheeler mixes a new playlist every week.

"He's an excellent mixer because he knows the music and just knows how to create that energy for the class," said Erin Wheeler, Eric's wife and co-founder of their company, Lucky Cat Yoga.

Both Wheelers teach yoga in a variety of settings all over the Tampa Bay area — from studios to libraries. It was one such class at a library last year that gave birth to Dark Wave Yoga. Students approached Erin and showed her a clip of dark wave yoga from another city.

'They asked me if we could have a yoga class with this sort of music," Erin recalled. "I said sure, because we love this type of music. We're formerly sullen and formerly moody."

Thinking that such an atmospheric class would need a different setting, the Wheelers reached out to friend, Tracy Midulla Reller, 40, of Tempus Projects, to see if it would be possible to hold a weekly class there. Lucky Cat had hosted a yoga class in the space before, but weekly was something different altogether.

"I thought it was a great idea because I'm sort of a shut-in," Reller said. "I joked that I'm too self-centered to go to yoga, so yoga had to come with me."

After Christmas, Dark Wave Yoga began and a core group of music fans and Seminole Heights residents began populating the group.

There wasn't a lot of black fingernail polish and obstructed vision haircuts. If anything, the class didn't look much different from any other group save for some key details.

"People wear their really cool concert T-shirts here," Eric laughed. "The week after the Morrissey show, everyone who went came in with their new Morrissey shirt on."

Classes are lit with tiny electric tea lights lining the walls and during the winter months they can be held in near darkness.

"It's a challenge to balance in the darkness," Erin Wheeler said. "But yoga is just like any other art form. You don't start as Picasso. You start from the basics."

For July, students got to meditate and breathe amongst the Ryann Slauson installation, "If You're not Getting Better, You're Getting Worse," full of cheerfully colored reminders of Florida and words art.

"We change the installation every month to showcase a different collection," Reller said. "We've had everything from video installation to sculptures. If there are pieces we can move safely for Dark Wave, we just put them to the side."

Being surrounded by art is one of Eric Wheeler's favorite things about teaching Dark Wave Yoga. He's a painter and musician as a well as a yoga instructor. He said he enjoys having a live music element in his classes and picking up guitar has helped him incorporate more of it in his lessons.

"I wouldn't want to live in a world without art," he said before releasing the class from corpse pose and preparing to send them on their way for the night.

As they rolled up their mats, they promised to meet again next week.

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