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Quiet. Calm. Focus. These are just a few words one might associate with yoga, whether they’ve practiced it or not. Yoga studios are known as places of collective, concentrated mindfulness practiced with respect and tranquility.
Yelling. Cursing. Drinking. These are words reserved for a bar after work hours, full of people unloading their stress in forms of alcohol consumption, bloviating, and loud exertion.
The two settings are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. But what if you could get the best out of both?
Lindsay Istace, a Canadian yoga instructor, has done just that by creating Rage Yoga, a practice that incorporates some of the noise and fun that traditional classes frown upon. She was inspired when her personal practice became laden with frustration after a breakup, but realized that actually manifesting her irritation through yelling and swearing proved to be immensely cathartic.
“At first it seemed kind of crazy,” Istace tells BTRtoday, “but then it felt productive to pair the two activities together, the catharsis of just letting it go and experiencing what you’re feeling rather than trying to bottle and hide it.”
Istace never felt completely comfortable in traditional yoga studios and classes. After creating Rage Yoga, she found that she wasn’t alone, and that many people are intimidated by the quiet seriousness of practice settings.
“The whole super-serene Zen approach works really well for a lot of people, but it doesn’t work for everybody,” she says. “That kind of super serious setting can have the opposite effect on people. Rather than become serious and focused they can become awkward.”
Rage Yoga classes are designed as open environments that remove the Zen-like restrictions. Istace holds the classes at Dickens Pub in Calgary, Alberta, and welcomes students to bring a pint into the class. The whole idea is to help students feel loose as they start what is normally a very serious practice.
“If you want to laugh or crack a joke during class, that’s cool,” Istace says. “It’s a totally different setting.”
Most of the talking and cursing comes into play at the beginning, but about halfway through the class, it begins to look like any other yoga gathering.
“When people start to hit the zone and connect with their bodies and connect with their breath, then they start to quiet down,” Istace says. “You kind of end up getting that serene Zen, but coming at it from a different way.”
Instead of mantras, Rage Yoga employs positive reinforcement as participants repeat the phrase “I am the ultimate badass,” and uses a breath control exercise called “Breath of Fire,” which involves raising your hands high during an inhale and screaming out whatever you may be bottling up on the way down.
Another thing that differentiates Rage Yoga is the music selection. As opposed to using pan flute and gongs, Istace plays a lot of metal, including tracks like “Ghosts” by Nine Inch Nails, “Final Countdown” by Europe, and “Chop Suey” by System of a Down.
According to Istace, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. She held her first class back in January and the word has spread quickly. She’s already planning on franchising Rage Yoga and going on teaching tours next year, as well as eventually opening up a physical studio.
“Depending on the day, classes can range up to 15 people,” Istace says. “Considering how recently we started, I’m really happy with that.”
Rage Yoga is unique in its own right, but there are a number of other obscure classes out there. From black metal to weed to yoga with your cat, there seems to be a practice for everybody. According to Istace, the basics of yoga are still there—it’s just about creating an accessible entry point to that connection between mind and body.
“You can drink a pint during class if you want, and we swear, and we’re very silly at times,” she says. “But you’re still connecting with your body and practicing breath control. You’re still practicing mindfulness.”