Yoga makes me angry.
This might sound funny coming from someone whose life revolves around meditation, but it’s true. My infrequent visits to yoga classes usually include a phase of rage, mid-posture. This has happened to me on and off since I was introduced to my first sun salutation as a freshman in college. I’ve seen in meditation how anger is often a cover-up for grief, sadness, and disappointment. It’s easier to feel anger than it is to feel hurt. It is somehow less vulnerable. But despite these insights, my irrational, yogi temper tantrums are continually vexing.
So, in line with my new years resolution to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, I bought a pass for a half a dozen yoga classes in the neighborhood. I know, it was a bold and daring move. Fast forward to the most recent class I attended.
About five minutes into the class, it hit. The room was hot. Crowded. The pose was uncomfortable. I could feel the agitation arising inside me. As it flowered, it brought forth a depth of fury that overcame me. Here I was, in downward dog, ready to punch anyone, anyone. Please, someone come close enough. I dare you.
Throughout my silent maelstrom, there was not a single clue as to the source of this silent violence. Yes, the room was a sweat box of body odor, weird house music and a distant voice reminding me to relax into the tightly-wound pretzel-shape heap I was in, but still. That warrants displeasure, not fury.
The class continued for me, a mix of sweat, profanity, struggle, and flow.
Mid-way through class, the instructor suggested not wiping the sweat away. That the sweat was a part of us and to accept it as part of the practice. Somehow, that statement was profound. I realized, in that moment, I was harboring self-judgement. I felt a betrayal by the inflexibility of my body, by the lack of grace I felt, by the rigidity with which I held myself. I felt a betrayal even with my own sweat. Here was a place where I did not love or accept myself.
As I opened to this feeling, the anger dissolved into grief. Grief for how I’ve punished myself and perceived my body as my enemy, rather than my home. I felt the pain of the silent battering and shaming of myself for having an inadequate, less than yoga-perfect, pretzel-wielding body.
In allowing myself to feel that grief, something let go.
I arrived home lighter and more joyful. I danced and laughed with the kids all morning. I flirted with my husband. I’ll get angry again, I’m sure. But the truth is, I can only feel as much joy as I allow myself to feel grief. It is in opening to whatever emotion is coming, and not hiding from it, that I will find my peace. Maybe even with yoga.