Angry Yoga People

So far in this blog, I’ve only shared things that have inspired me since moving back to Canada. But there have also been a few things that really tick me off. And at the risk of having people think this is a Yoga-themed Blog (I promise to rectify that soon), I’m going to go ahead and share this one thing that has ticked me off: Angry Yoga People.

Being a novice yogi there are a lot of things you notice, most you love, some you tolerate as necessary, and once in a while, you find some you hate – as inappropriate as “hate” is in yoga. But you know what else is inappropriate in yoga? Angry people.

If you’ve been following this blog you know that normally I only write about Yoga Love. Usually I float out of the studio on a cloud of positive energy, leaving behind any stress I came in with. Sometimes I’ll have too much going on upstairs and leave feeling about the same as when I went in…but it is a rare day that I leave more agitated than when I came in.

For some reason, when I walked into the studio today, I forgot to take my shoes off. (I’ve never done it before, I didn’t do it on purpose, and will never do it again.) I started to walk towards the desk to sign in and as I walked a lady yelled from behind the desk: Leave your shoes at the door. But not in a calm rational way, in an uptight, stressed out, A-type maniac way. She yelled so loudly that I could only be embarrassed for the person, obviously far across the room, that she was yelling at. I was so embarrassed for them I didn’t even realize it was me.

Then she yelled again, this time accompanied by some sort of jerky hand gesture pointing at the door. By then, somewhat mortified for the poor person, I realized, I was the person! But it was too late, by this time I was directly in front of her with the sign-in pen in my hand so I just said: Sorry, I just wanted to sign in. And she made me turn around and go take my boots off before coming to sign the page. Then, instead of letting it go, she leaned in and in just as loud a voice said: But you get it right? You Understand? And continued on, just wouldn’t give it up.

A. you don’t need to talk to you clients like children, or idiots
B. Your attitude is completely inappropriate for a yoga studio.

A yoga studio in the middle of downtown Toronto where people are rushing in for a tiny bit of calm away from the stress, pace, and especially, attitudes they are faced with every day. The last thing they need coming into your studio is more attitude.

It took all I had to hold back Zack Galifianakis who had somehow crystallized himself inside my body and was trying to get out and get right up in her face and say: You better check yourself before you wreck yourself. Thankfully, I managed to hold Zack back, but I couldn’t hold back a jerky under-the-breath laugh and accompanying eye-roll. Now, I admit those did not help the situation, but I’m an admitted recovering corporate lawyer, not an angry person masquerading as someone there to help you get your calm on.

This isn’t the first Angry Yoga Person I’ve run into. They are everywhere, masquerading as calm, balanced people. The trick is that they look just like other yoga people. They wear lululemons, carry yoga mats, and use words like Namaste. Only they’re angry. They wander around town fooling people, often even themselves. Indicators are things such as unnecessarily rearranging their mat 50 times, hiding their iphone under their towel, and most obviously, hitting you as they outstretch their arms during their spine series….for the 3rd time that class. Classic Angry Yoga People moves.

There was the one time during the flu epidemic earlier this winter, in a class where we were packed in like sardines, when the girl beside me was so into her practice that she failed to cover her mouth on the several occasions she let out flu-spore-filled sneezes, spraying those of us around her. Today wasn’t even the first time I’ve encountered an Angry Yoga Person (AYPs) working at a yoga studio (it’s more common than one would think). A couple months ago I overheard another employee making snarky comments to a student over pricing. Who cares you say? Can’t they have a bad day?

Yes, but that’s kind of the point of yoga. Especially the AYPs that are teachers, you are yoga instructors. One of the central parts of your job is to bring people calm! At the very least, to not be the cause of your students’ stress. I get it, everyone has a bad day. But you know what? Get someone to fill in for you that day. Have some respect for your students, your clients. As a human rights lawyer, I can’t just have a “bad day” and decide, just for today, that I’m going to persecute my own clients. Um no, I have to get over myself and help them anyway.

So I went inside the actual studio a few minutes early to escape the bad energy in the reception area…only to realize I hadn’t seen our regular teacher out there…what if she is the teacher?

Sure enough, the door opens and guess who walks in. I thought about leaving. But then I thought, no, you can’t let people affect you so much, isn’t this part of what yoga is about? Being able to just be with yourself and block out the outside junk is part of this, but come on – having to spend 1.5 hours listening to the voice of the very person who was causing your stress? That is meditation for experts. Maybe the Dalai Lama could do that, maybe even Richard Gere, but not me.

I decided to stay, I wasn’t going to let her ruin my practice, but there was this constant ticker-tape of annoyed thoughts running through my head. I tried to listen to the words alone and forget about her voice, but everything that is normally so soothing during the class; let go of all that outside stress or forget the negativity of the world just seemed like a joke coming from someone who had just come at me with a truckload of attitude for the very serious crime of not removing my shoes (I still don’t know what that was about but it sure as hell wasn’t about my shoes). Her voice had completely changed from snappy and argumentative before class to this sickeningly sweet one. She was no longer even talking, more like cooing, in a mix of sing-song Mary Poppins and sultry Scarlet Johansson. I wanted to get up and say: Are you kidding me? But I didn’t, I stayed and did my best to forget it and get on with the practice.

From then on I managed quite well until the very last minute of class when she said: Namaste. Thankfully it was dark and people were moaning thank-yous because I couldn’t help but murmur come on, under my breath. Why? Because the “Namaste” that everyone says after yoga class now, the Namaste you see everywhere lately, even on reusable bags, is actually supposed to be a way of demonstrating respect for one another. It is meant to salute the light within the other person. Some even say to salute God in the other person (meaning God is in all of us).

I’m sorry but carrying a yoga mat, drinking Kombucha tea, and even teaching yoga, does not mean you are embracing the true meaning of the practice and whether it is snarky comments, snapping at clients, or being so into your yogi self that you ignore the needs of those around you – none of these are saluting the light within those around you, and it sure isn’t any way to salute the light within yourself either. This may sound like an overly zealous defense of the idea of Namaste, but although I’m a beginner yogi, I remember a time years ago, before the word Namaste was as common as the word Espresso, when I was living in Nepal and people would greet you with a slow bow and a Namaste, a time when it still meant something.

And then there’s the time you realize you might be an Angry Yoga Person. But I checked the indicators, I made it. Barely.


7 thoughts on “Angry Yoga People

  1. Pingback: Angry Yoga People | Adventures in International Law

  2. I know what you mean! I went to a different studio with a friend a few months ago, it was my first time there and the first thing the girl behind the desk said was “last name?” no hello or anything. Now that might not seem like a big deal to most people, but it was the first of several snarky comments. Maybe it’s because I love my regular studio and the people there so much, but being unfriendly is definitely not going to get me back to that studio!

    • It’s the same everywhere it seems. Most studios in big cities now have self check in counters so that you don’t even need to speak to someone (just swipe your card and print your ticket) and classes are so packed that you don’t even get to speak to the teacher. Yoga in some cases (not all, of course!) morphed into a glorified fitness business with a Ganesh statue at the entrance. 😦

  3. I love your post!! People tend to forget that the yoga we practise in West has nothing to do with the original practice. The first thing you’d do in India is cover yourself, not wear stretch pants. And as you say, the postures are supposed to remove physical blockages that prevent us from moving on to other practices such as pranayama and meditation.
    Anyway, another way of seeing it (which helps me dealing with similar situations) is that it’s exactly these people who are the ones drawn towards yoga because it is supposed to help them dealing with their “stuff”.
    This is what Swami Sivananda thought about divine life in general and human behaviour in particular:

    Sorry for this long comment, I seem to have hijacked your blog!


    • Hi Andrea, thanks for your thoughts and advice – I will check out your link and yes I definitely agree on people being drawn to yoga that need it, my thought is just that if you’re not in a place to support people in their practice you are not in a place to be teaching others yet – whether it’s “yet” in life, or just that day. Thanks for the comments, keep them coming!

  4. Awe…. Allison you had me laughing out loud, i know exactly what your talking about! I love that it hasnt detered you, xoxo

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