Lindsay Istace, founder of Rage Yoga shares with us her motivation and inspiration behind the concept of Rage Yoga: a yoga class where swearing, drinking and shouting is not only allowed but encouraged.

My adventure into yoga began at 19 when I decided I wanted to be a contortionist. My initial goal was just to get as flexible as possible and nothing more. I didn’t expect to find anything deeper in it, but somewhere in my second year things began to change in my practice. It went from just being an exercise routine to being a staple in my day to day life. My practice taught me a lot about myself, helped me overcome a lot of personal struggles and showed me how to empower myself. I don’t know exactly when my practice became yoga but it was a gradual transition.

What is Rage Yoga?

The philosophy behind Rage Yoga was to create a safe space for people to be honest with their emotions because we spend a lot of time masking how we really feel. In Rage Yoga we encourage people to let out what they might be bottling up, and give them the tools to use their negative emotions in a positive and constructive way. It’s also a different approach to yoga that a lot of people find less intimidating or less serious.

The initial idea came about during the painful breakup of a long term relationship. During this time I felt lost, angry and confused. This started to be reflected in my home practice which began to change… suddenly I was swearing and yelling on the mat a lot. I’m sure my neighbours were not overjoyed about it and at first I thought I was just crazy. But after it happened a couple times I started to find it to be incredibly therapeutic! Mixing the emotional release with the release of yoga felt amazing and I found that I felt better faster. My sessions would often turn into me laughing at myself and end with a feeling of calm.

Unconventional classes

Our  live classes in Calgary, AB, are different to regular yoga classes because they are, for one, taught in a pub. Students can sip on a pint while they practice if they like. Our classes are also done to a variety of different music, everything from the Jurassic Park theme song to Nine Inch Nails to Bif Naked. I guess the most colorful difference in the language! There’s a lot of room for swearing in Rage Yoga although it’s not necessary. Once someone yelled “spaghetti” instead and it was a class highlight for me.  

Within the next couple months I will be launching into creating online Rage Yoga classes! I have had interest from all around the world so I figured that, since I can’t teleport, this is the best way to share the joy of Rage on a bigger scale. I’m also planning on doing a teaching tour through Canada (and maybe some of the U.S.) in August.

Creating a new concept

The biggest obstacle I faced was getting people to see the potential. It didn’t take long but at first people kind of just stared at me like I had three heads. For example, my partner tried to talk me out of discussing it with the bar manager at Dickens (the pub where we have our live classes). At first he couldn’t see how it could possibly be successful. I guess he wanted to save me the embarrassment! I decided I was going to go forth with it anyway and he changed his tune pretty quickly. Now he’s one of Rage Yoga’s biggest supporters.

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Haters gonna hate

I have faced some criticism from people claiming that shouting and swearing during a yoga practice ‘isn’t yoga’. To these people, the first thing I say is “Don’t come to my classes”. I have had a lot of people ask why I bother even calling it yoga; I can definitely understand why it has upset some people. Yes, there is beer and swearing. But we’re still practising mindfulness and breath control. We’re still creating a space for people to feel better and get back inside their bodies. We’re helping people undo the knots in their minds and we’re still going through the poses. It’s not just stretching. For those who connect with the idea, Rage Yoga has a lot to offer.

Some will absolutely not connect with it and that’s OK! But just because it isn’t for everyone doesn’t change the fact that it’s doing a lot of good for others. It’s also offering a unique gateway into the yoga world that is attracting a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t practice yoga. I think that is a huge win, not just for Rage Yoga but for everyone.

“The paths are many but the Truth in One.” -Swami Sivananda

My favourite place in the world to practice yoga is at home! I know it’s not a colourful or overly creative place but I really just like to do my own thing in my own space. My ideal practice is during sunrise (I recently became a morning lover) in my living room. I live close to downtown Calgary and our apartment has a good view, as well as large windows. Practising during sunrise, and before the day gets carried away in its momentum, gives me a high that lasts all day.

My advice to people just starting their yoga journey would be to shop around. Whether you’re going to in-person classes or doing online classes at home, make sure you find a style and a teacher that you like. Try a bunch out! There are so many different teaching methods and branches of yoga and not all of them will jive with you. Find what works and keep doing it.

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” -Maya Angelou.

This quote means a lot to me because it has helped me to forgive and accept myself. It reminds me too that, if I want to do better, I need to challenge myself to learn and grow. It has also helped to give me a new perspective when I see other people acting in a way that bothers me. We all really just do the best with what we have and remembering that helps me to be more understanding.