Yogi Punk Rock Teaches Radical Wellness

OJAI, Calif. — Jacqui Burge gently rang a meditation bell at her Ojai yoga studio. As the sound faded, Burge, sitting in the classic cross-legged pose or “sukhasana”, seemed to fall into a peaceful, meditative trance for several minutes.

Half an hour later, sitting in her living room, Burge sounded different and much more dissonant. She was struggling on an electric guitar.

What do you want to know

  • Jacqui Burge rose to prominence as a child actress and competitive skater
  • Burge found fame as the lead singer of an all-female punk rock band
  • While recovering from heroin addiction, Burge sought wellness through yoga and meditation
  • Burge found fame, once again, as “Desk Yogi”, teaching people how to practice yoga in the midst of their busy lives.

Burge is a fan of punk rock.

Years before Burge learned Buddhist chants, she was in a punk band singing songs such as “Hey Bastard!” A recording exists of her on the Internet performing the song in 1990 at the famous club “CBGB’s” in New York.

“Hey, bastard! shouts a young Burge into the microphone. “Love me for who I am!”

Burge now admits she didn’t like herself. However, ironically, Burge said she has since harnessed the same rebellion she found in the punk rock scene to find her own worth.

“Punk means you really go your own way,” Burge said.

Her journey led Burge to practice and preach what she calls “Punk Wellness”, how to create inner harmony, but on her own terms.

“(It’s) marching to the beat of your own drummer,” Burge said. “(It is) taking care of your own body. Because it’s your body.

Burge, who grew up in Southern California, first found fame as a child actress and competitive ice skater. Burge recounted how, as a teenager, she was traumatized after her parents divorced and her mother moved her across the country to Washington DC.

Burge said it was there that she became rebellious and discovered a taste for punk rock.

In his twenties, fame returned. She went to New York, where she fell into an all-female punk rock band named “STP”, and toured side by side with Sonic Youth and Nirvana.

Burge said it was also during this time that she found heroin.

“And I was a daily drug addict for probably two and a half years,” Burge said.

Burge claims that one day, at the height of her addiction and walking down the street, she heard a voice.

“You’re going to die if you keep doing this,” Burge recalled of the voice saying.

“It’s incredibly, incredibly hard to quit heroin,” said Burge, who claims she went “cold turkey” and embarked on recovery and started programs in 12 steps.

As she got sober, Burge said she discovered in meditation and yoga the same things she was looking for with drugs — a sense of well-being and inner peace.

“You start falling into a state of being that is euphoric in a way,” Burge said, “(but) without it being a momentary feeling. It’s a ‘permanent feeling.’

Later, when Burge got a corporate office job, she realized that she and her co-workers were feeling stressed. She convinced her boss at the time to allow her to teach yoga during lunch breaks. It ended up becoming his own business.

Now Burge is once again famous, but now for a well-known Internet franchise called “Desk Yogi”. This is a series of videos where Burge teaches people how to do yoga right at their desk. Its original intention was to allow people to do simple meditative exercises in the workplace, but without drawing attention to themselves.

In a video, Burge teaches an exercise for the neck.

“It’s a super secret ninja move,” she said, turning her head.

Burge also hosts live online sessions for paying customers.

“Hi, Shelly. I haven’t seen you in a while,” Burge said as she stared intently at her desktop computer and welcomed the students to her virtual classroom. She then launched into a series of exercises simple yoga exercises.

“It’s 15 minutes,” Burge explained. “We do yoga, fitness, breathing and mindfulness time.”

And that, Burge said, is the point. In the midst of a crowded life, people should be able to find well-being and peace by injecting elements of meditation and mindfulness into their daily lives.

And that, she says, is the “punk” part of her practice. It’s a rebellion against any dogma that says people have to be spiritual “gurus” or spend hours on a yoga mat to reap the benefits of movement and meditation.

“We all have jobs,” Burge said. “We have children and bills to pay. (We) might not have the ability to meditate for hours a day. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t meditate.

“You move your body, even for five minutes, and you feel better,” Burge said. “And that’s the whole message that I’m trying to get out into the world, or Desk Yogi, or Punk Wellness or whatever I’m doing. All you have to do is move a little. And that little bit leads to a little more, and a little more, and a little more.

Burge recently opened a physical space in Ojai called “Move Sanctuary,” for people to practice punk wellness in person.

“It’s ‘punk,'” Burge said. “The experience you have in your body is up to you. But, the flip side is that you are also 100% responsible for your own health.

Diana J. Carleton