A confession: yoga makes me angry.
If you’re over on Facebook with me, you’ll know that recently I started doing yoga again. It had been 10 years and two kids since my last class, but I could feel my body atrophying into kinks and knots and impossibly bad habits, so I thought I’d best give it another go.
I was halfway through my first class when I remembered why I stopped last time.
Yoga makes me angry.
Not frustrated or mildly cranky, but full of rage.
It begins with the whole ’empty your mind’ moment at the start of class. “Empty my mind?” my mind says. “How am I supposed to do that?” And the thoughts whirl round, getting blacker and blacker as I try to fight them off and turn my mind into an abyss.
“Concentrate on your breathing,” my golden, sylph-like instructor intones in her soothing, calm-blue-ocean voice.
So I do. To the point where I’m practically hyperventilating because, really, concentrating on my breathing makes me aware of my breathing and the minute I become aware of anything it all goes pear-shaped (trust me, as a writer who has tried plotting out a novel and become paralysed, I hesitate to try this with my breathing).
And then the movement begins. The horrible, creaking, agonising movement.
There is little I dislike more in life than a downward-facing dog. Really. My head swims, my hamstrings scream, my heels never touch the floor no matter how much I press down through my ‘bundas’ (whatever they may be).
The only downward dog I want in my life is that guy up there in the photo. Procrasti-Pup has the whole ‘down’ thing covered.
So while all this is going on and I’m lengthening my muscles and strengthening my core, my mind is going 1000 miles an hour and it is NOT happy. In fact, it is swearing every swear word I know (and, having worked in journalism my whole adult life, I know a wide range).
I am watching the clock and swearing. I am sweating and panting and trying not to pass out, and my mind is shrieking like this: *$%@+++&&&^^^@@@####!
I’m not a natural.
I asked a good friend of mine who is an avid yogi what she thought about my situation. “Yoga works on all parts of the body, Al,” she said, serenely. “I think you are venting your spleen.”
Right. That’s one way of putting it.
I Googled my problem, of course – late at night, by the light of the tele, when I was wondering if I was abnormal. I’m not. The anger during yoga is a ‘thing’.
Apparently it has to do with the fact that we store our deepest fears and tragic memories in unused muscles of the body and when we use those muscles, the thoughts rise up like so much toxic waste and … well, in my case, make me furious. It could be worse, I guess – another side effect is bawling like a baby all through the class. Or feeling like you’re going to vomit.
Swearing is minor when you look at it like that.
Another friend of mine just reckons I’m doing it all wrong. He did some yoga for the first time recently and found it all very soothing and that the 90 minutes went very quickly.
I wanted to swear at him, but held back.
So why do I go back? Well, here’s the rub. I feel about 1000 per cent better after the class. It’s like banging myself on the head – it feels brilliant when it’s over. I sleep the sleep of the just, my neck and shoulders have no kinks, I’m not eating Nurofen for breakfast because my tension levels are so high that I have a headache nearly every day.
It’s all worth it.
But I think I’m going to need to learn some new swear words.
Do you do yoga? Does it make you angry?
Yoga makes you angry; it makes me sad. My personal reaction to yoga tends to be either sobbing, or nausea. But it feels like I’m accessing and processing old junk that needs to be processed, and I seem to keep going back to it. Sometimes I even crave it, oddly. Recently I joined a new (very small) yoga class. Everyone there had worked with the instructor and each other before except for me. At the end of the first class the instructor genuinely asked us all how we were feeling. One person said “calm,” one said “hungry.” I avoided answering the question because the real answer was “sad” but I had just met these people. So, it was good to see here I’m not the only one who feels something other than “calm” or “hungry” after a yoga class!
LOL! You most definitely are not. I keep thinking I should go back but I’m not sure I can cope with the rising tide of crankiness…
I committed to regular yoga four/five times a week in 2013 and I have kept it up for nearly three years now. It has changed me as a person and I still experience those moments where I question why I keep getting out of bed at 5am for 6am yoga. Over time my expectations have changed and I have chiselled away at my ego and opened up to be more patient, accepting and kind.
It just works that way.
Setting an intention at the start of a class always helps. I set my intention this morning for grace and flow, and as a 95kg 42 year old, I experienced moments of grace and flow – all to rare in my life normally.
A teacher once confided that the hardest part of yoga is getting to the mat. Once you are there, let go, surrender and just follow the cues of the teacher. Simple. Oh, and wave away the mind chatter. That anger bubbling to the surface has to emerge somehow, better on the mat than elsewhere – right?
All excellent advice Bren. Perhaps I will try it one more time…
I have maybe a similar thing happens …I often feel great at the end of a class ( better person definitely , calm, , more open, optimistic ) but can’t say I enjoy getting there. In fact I spend quite a bit of class bored, irritable with yoga ( why do I persist? etc) and after 7 years still find many of the the asanas awkward(not in the least ‘flowing’ even tho the style I do involves many moving sequences) and I remain perplexed …am I doing this right?…something is wrong ? Yes after 7 years how come I still seem not to really ”get it” …I never experience on- the- mat emotions and revelations that others often report and all the stuff about the breathing …get the theory but not the practice. I ‘ve read many books about Yoga (”how to” manuals , chakras and the philosophy behind it sounds great ) but it”s as if my inner self (or body?) doesn’t absorb any of it, So weirdly yoga helps me Yes (and sometimes dramatically and inspiringly) but other times it doesn’t have any effect at all, just leaves me frustrated. I stick with it because sometimes the rewards are great but its unreliable and it seems to obscure as much as or more than reveal .Definitely not a pleasure from top to toe ! I suppose what I am saying is while Yoga can be amazing at times, I have failed to develop a relationship of any meaningful sort with it.
I know this is an older post, but I found it fascinating. Honestly, yoga makes me furious too. Now, I am the kind of person who gets frustrated and gives up easily, but my wife swears by yoga. We took classes together for a couple months, I gave it the college try. Couldn’t do it. I get so angry with it. The anger lasted after the classes too. Now, I’ve always had a temper, but things like healthier diet, yoga, pilates, anger management, meditation, do zip for me. I also grew up with major anxiety and ADHD. I have tried these things all to no avail. Desperate to find some way to manage these issues, I stopped caring and tuned it out. Angry? Anxious? Take some time ignore everything, choose not to care about all those crazy thoughts. Yes, the anger is still there, the anxiety is still there, but I can’t stop it. Can’t clear my mind. So, I flip it on it’s head. It’s white noise. I have some outlandish thought or fear come to mind, yeah, I think, that “could” happen. So what? It doesn’t “empty my mind,” it’s still there. But by taking a walk and letting all the junk be white noise, that did it. Oh, and those sound machines that play thunderstorms or beach waves, I hate those too. If you can’t work through it, stop fighting, acknowledge it, and stop caring about it. Then your wandering thoughts or anxiety or whatever lose their power. Turn it on it’s head. I know I’ll get distracted or frustrated. Anything spiritual makes me nuts, even though I believe in it. Once I found my own unique way, that changed everything. Sorry for rambling, but I have always had trouble with trying to explain things to people who tell me I was doing something wrong, or just needed to try something. Turns out, all the advice from yogis and group meditation, therapy, etc just was that, advice. Having to find my own way was challenging and daunting, esp since all the “advice” never really amounted to much. I just had to let go. So if this helps someone save all the grief I went through, all the better.
That was so funny Allison! I’m sitting here at work (Ssh) and I burst out laughing. I haven’t done yoga for about a year and my body is ‘aching’ for it. I know what you mean though.
I get SO mad. I feel livid and without control. I want to do yoga, SO bad, but twisting and turning is Just torture since my temper flares up. And i am not an angry person!
I feel so alone , b/c everyone says yoga is soooooo relieving, and calming. While i feel insane.
angry angry angry. not always, but when it comes I feel seething rage toward the yoga instructor. Other times, I am a river of peace. But some of those instructors trigger….
I used a Yoga app recommended by a friend recently to take a basic level yoga lesson. I think it was the Calm Blue Ocean tone of the instructors voice that set me off. I’m not very flexible at the moment and I felt much better physically by the end, but I honestly could have punched the virtual instructor in the face if I could. As a result, I think I will continue with my virtual yoga lessons for a while to avoid potential assault charges.
I have noted a few people comment on preferring pilates classes. I have considered this as an option and might look into it further.
I love yoga, and while it doesn’t make me angry, I know it’s a common reaction. The Mind is outraged that you’re asking it to shut up – after all it’s had the run of the place for a while now, like a toddler with no discipline. So, yes, expect tantrums for sure. In fact, treat your Mind tantrums just like you would those of your two year old – with a combination of patience and firmness. It will calm down after a while. I know exactly what you mean about downward dog. I hated it so much, and my teacher made me stay in it for so long. The resistance, the discomfort, nay pain, my weak arms and shoulders…grrr. And then, one day, I got it. I just got it. And now, it doesn’t bother me. Keep going Allison!
The promise of being bendy and lithe with regular yoga practice had me going back over and over for three years, but it never happened. I hate sun salutations. There, I said it. I like the idea of it as a daily practice, but I fail at all of those most basic moves including stupid downward dog. Having said that, I do quite like the balance-y pretzel moves where you’re a one-legged tree and then tip sideways into demented star – cause my balance rocks. I’m just not so bendy.
I do daily pilates videos now and while I can’t do the full body sit-up without grabbing my thighs and rolling sideways because my abdominal wall was all ‘what the effing hell?’ when I was pregnant, I can handle everything else.
Give up the yoga and get to a clinical pilates class. Less focus on clearing the mind and all that jazz and more focus on pelvic floor and core strength. I hate yoga, but my body falls apart if I go a few months without pilates.
My trainer always tells me: “You don’t have to like exercise, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it.” She then goes on to tell me how she hates cooking and cleaning, but still has to do them (which I personally feel is debatable), and therefore enjoyment isn’t a necessary ingredient for exercise. She always assures me it’s a benefit though, and generally I find she’s right 🙂
You’ve made me so happy! I thought my yoga anger was a personal failing. Sounds like it’s a thing! I should give it another go because yes, the aftermath is wonderful.
I get more angry when I don’t do yoga. I haven’t done it for a very long time, so I’m pretty cranky right now!
Oh, much easier to laugh instead … it’s funny! http://www.buzzfeed.com/lukelewis/ludicrous-things-said-by-yoga-teachers#.imVwkmq86
I love my yoga! For starters, it means my hips work without hurting. I’ve now been doing it every week for over 3 years and my heels don’t meet the floor in downward dog either, I often find my head swimming with thoughts when I should be emptying it out, and sleeping solidly after a class is still on the wishlist. I know what I do now will serve me well in the future, and yes, it does give me a level of calm that I need to do creative work on an ongoing basis. Plus it means I get out of the house and have some me-time. Hope you stick with it Al. You’ll get past the rage stage, I’m sure!
HA! Your yoga sounds like my spin class. If it’s my ride, I’m not going up a stinking mountain, thank you very much.
As with most things “exercise” the benefit us always in the after, never in the now….
I can’t stand yoga. But I actually quite like Pilates. Well, I don’t hate it, put it that way…
Mostly yoga just makes me angry at myself for being the kind of person who hurts during yoga… keep going. x