You're in yoga. You've carved out the time to find balance, serenity, focus and patience. But you aren't finding a freaking one of them!
Because apparently, today you're going to be practicing angry yoga.
When I was in Yoga Teacher Training, I would find myself on my mat with good intentions but also zero balance, zero coordination and zero patience. I was falling all over the place, fidgeting through meditation, and I couldn't hold a balance posture no matter how hard I tried, and I certainly could not breathe on the right count.
My teacher came over to me as I agitatedly rolled up my mat and said, "Some days, we practice angry yoga."
Since that day, I have completed my Yoga Teacher Training, and I am a yoga teacher at the local college but I am also still on my own personal journey with yoga. I still have days when I practice angry yoga.
How do we know when we're practicing angry yoga, and how to bring ourselves out of it?
1. Thinking, "The teacher is moving so slow!"
If you find yourself wishing the teacher would move faster or not hold you in a posture for-freaking-ever then you're probably practicing angry yoga. This is a sign that you may need to slow your brain, heart and nervous system down. You may be moving too quickly through life.
2. Impulsively fidgeting.
Can't sit still? Ask yourself why. You may have too much on your mind, or you may be fighting a low-vibrating anxiety that hangs in the air around you. Dive into what is causing these zen-stealing impulses.
3. Comparing yourself to others.
Looking over at your friend and seeing how calm, balanced, strong and smiley they are can make everything worse for you. It can put you on a destructive mental path of "Ugh, I can usually reach my toes, but apparently NOT TODAY." We are tough on ourselves. We are tougher on ourselves when we're practicing angry yoga.
4. Being a harsh critic.
When we start to analyze everything we're doing, we start making mental notes and the conversation with ourselves turns ugly. "Your spine can twist more than this," or "Last week, this posture wasn't a problem at all." We forget that we wake up with a different body every morning. We forget how to accept that.
5. Making excuses.
When our yoga practice doesn't go the way we expect it to, we start making excuses. "I was up late last night, so..." or "I'm nursing this pesky injury" (which may or may not be true). We aren't as accepting of our vulnerability. It's hard to say, "Today, I'm having a rough day."
6. Feeling unnecessarily tense.
If your muscles are contracting and not releasing, you may be stressed. You may be overexerting or pushing yourself too hard which opens your body up to potential injuries. If you feel the tension in your fingers, toes and muscle groups, you may find it hard to relax into the postures - which will be more frustrating.
7. Unable to control your breath.
When your nervous system is operating on fight-or-flight mode, you'll be experiencing short breath patterns. Then, when pranayama comes up in class, you'll be furious because you won't be able to hold the breath for 5, 6 or 7 seconds. You won't be able to slow down the heart rate and let your system relax.
Remember, frustration breeds frustration.
But practicing angry yoga isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's a sign we should listen to. It's telling us that we should dive deeper into what is going on in our lives: Are we mentally frustrated? Are we acting like a live wire because something has bothered us or isn't sitting right with us? Are we in a healthy place? These discovery questions can help guide us to a better place so that our yoga practice can return to its enjoyable place.