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Crying in Rage Yoga with Strangers

The Yoga that Really is All the Rage

So, you’ve surely heard of hot yoga and Bikram yoga and maybe even kundalini yoga, but have you heard of rage yoga? A friend from my kayak group posted on Facebook about a rage yoga class she’d attended about a month ago, and I thought, I have rage. I do yoga. Put me in, coach!

Thus, I replied with an immediate, “Hey, let me know when the next class is,” which is a request I promptly would have registered and then mentally neglected because my mind frequently works to sabotage all otherwise healthy relationships in that regard. Given that, I was surprised and pleased when my friend replied a few days later to advise about the next rage yoga class at Iron Hand Brewing. She added that the class would be orchestrated around Prince music. I was sold.

Upon Arrival

Despite no further communication with my friend (see previous: RE mental sabotage), I assumed she’d be there. But alas, I walked into the brewery roughly two minutes after the class was supposed to start to find (1) it hadn’t (goodish), and (2) my friend wasn’t there. Oh. God. As it turns out, everyone was very friendly, and not in the profoundly uncomfortable way of highly extroverted people but rather in the way that, “We’re cool that you’re here. Get comfortable.” There was a mutual pact of we are here because we have rage and there’s yoga, and someone said there’d be mimosas. Essentially, we were all there to namaste and slay.

What Rage Yoga Is and Isn’t

When I envisioned rage yoga, I thought we’d just be sweating our way through When Doves Cry and shouting swears in downward facing dogs and tree poses, but I was wrong.

The instructor, who is actually taking over the Rage Yoga institution for the Canadian founder of rage yoga (home girl was going through a breakup and needed to release steam…massive respect), began the sesh by lauding Prince’s illustrious musical career. He noted that while Prince was something of a musical genius, Prince’s life and massive potential was also marred by an opioid addiction. Setting the theme for the class, he asked us to consider our own addictions and to leave our proverbial baggage at the door as we outprocessed those gnawing toxicities in our own lives. I dug it like Prince would a velvet jumpsuit / thong combo. We do all have addictions. My starter addiction was an eating disorder in my late teens and early 20s, and while I’ve totes kicked that, I know I’m far from free from naughty little crutches.

Addiction is often associated with “negative” things like alcoholism, drug addiction, sex, gambling, etc., basically anything that would make your blue-haired grandma clutch her pearls, but we can (and most of us are) equally addicted to disassociation with our phones, to television, to food, to making money, to work, to exercise, etc. Things that are seemingly positive or desirable (not the phone, sorry, y’all) can easily become addictive and thus unhealthy. (Worth noting that no addiction is shameful as the foundation of addiction is related to brain chemistry and pleasure, so no one is immune, so even if your jam is meth, you’re not broken.)

The matrices for defining addictive behavior lies within the individual, and thankfully, the class didn’t delve into that. I didn’t spend too much time thinking about my own foibles as I moved through a series of restorative forward bends, sun salutations, downward facing dogs, and chaturangas that literally anyone could do.

If you’re familiar with yoga, then you know that the end of a robust practice is something called shavasana. Shavasana is a period of several minutes where you lay on your back and absorb the practice, letting it marinate into you and perhaps allowing thoughts to pass through your mind. I like it because my body feels like a sack of wet sand, and I sink into the mat and…ugh, my feelings.

While I meditate daily, I don’t follow my at-home practices with a shavasana, but I also know from the brief time working out a gym that I always blipping cry during shavasana. And, of course, I did. It’s a peaceful and quiet moment where everything stills and settles. In the early days after my husband died, I remember having a quiet moment moving laundry and nearly falling apart emotionally…until one of my very young daughters needed me. I buttoned up my feelings and shoved them into the emotional lint trap where they became trapped. I have been slowly un-zippering them ever since. Shavasana is a time where I slowly let my feelings out. It’s hard and beautiful work.

Crying, for my fellow C-PTSD and complex grief survivors out there, is hugely important. If you’re also a millennial, you may have been taught to not cry. Maybe your overt expression of emotions made other people feel embarassed, and they told you that something was wrong with you. Maybe you felt ashamed because you were the only one who couldn’t stop crying even after the credits ended following Titanic (too soon?). Whatever the reason, crying is cool. Still. I laid there, melting into my yellow yoga mat like I was filled with wet sand and could sense my brow furrow seizing up with the effort to not cry and to not not cry.

I was watery but not crying when the instructor advised us to gently rouse our bodies and move to a seated position. I crossed my legs, giving preference to my perpetually tight right hip, as he said, “There’s one song we haven’t heard.”

Oh, come on dude. Please, God no. But also…please God yes. I knew what it would be.

“Purple Rain” is by far my favorite Prince track for so many reasons. A boy I cared deeply about in my early 20s died last year. His dad died from cancer when he was a teen. I met him because I was dating his best friend and roommate. As friends, we connected intellectually and as friends. While our friendship didn’t sustain past my relationshp with that boyfriend, I always cared about my friend. He died last year, barely into his 40s, from liver failure. Over the course of the decades before and after I knew him, addiction stole an otherwise wonderful life. I associate “Purple Rain” with him in particular because on our soundtrack of ’80s jams we used to rock out to while we made salsa and snacked and were just young and dumb, Prince was prevalent. I was also with them the year that Prince played at the Superbowl. I couldn’t help but think of my friend within the context of the day’s class. But that wasn’t my only reason for feeling so much. More than that, “Purple Rain” is a song of grief, and heartache, and love, and loss. It’s so human.

As the first chords echoed through the room, I knew I wouldn’t last, so I folded myself over and laid my forehead in my hands, then as my hips relaxed, turned my cheek into the fold of my arms like a child, and I cried. Really cried. Maybe the instructor turned the music up for me–or maybe it was because it was a badass song, or maybe he didn’t and it just felt louder. Whatever. I cried. I didn’t try to hide the fact that I was shuddering and sobbing because I think we should normalize feeling, and if you can’t cry in a rage yoga class, where the hell can you cry? Because what comes after rage? It’s tears.

I’ve just compressed it all over a course of years, and it’s finally seeping out rageful tear by tear. I don’t know what I cried for. For what I had. For what and who I’ve lost. For how hard it’s been to keep going. For how thankful I am that I did. For how sorry I am for everyone who has suffered on this journey. For all of the things.

Eventually, and by the grace of Prince, before the song ended, I stopped sobbing, dusted off, and sat up, and then I made some friends.

Nobody bugged me about crying or made me feel like a weirdo–if they’d even noticed (noticed me crying, not being a weirdo…I can’t hide that)–and everyone was friendly and gathered around a communal table to chat and just be cool.

I give it all of the unicorn finger stars, and trust, I will be back.

Check Out Rage Yoga Online

If you think you might be interested, the next Rage Yoga class will be at Iron Hand on Sunday, July 23. I’m linking to their Facebook page here in case you find this page well into the future (2026? What are doing? What are we wearing? What are we microdosing?). I’m also going to note that the Rage Yoga podcast launches this week, the week of July 10, 2023, so please check the group out on Facebook and definitely jump into a class. It’s like, $20 via Venmo. You don’t need to bring anything other than yourself and a yoga mat. Crying is optional.

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