Unleash Your Inner Badass with Rage Yoga
If the thought of an hour-long session of peaceful poses and mindful breathing makes you cringe, you need a class that takes itself a little less seriously.
As a contortionist and circus performer by trade, Lindsay Istace, founder of Rage Yoga, is necessarily strong and flexible. But despite being able to handle the intense discomfort that accompanies elements of her day job, she struggled to find a yoga workout she could commit to that didn’t make her feel out of place when she stepped into a studio.
She discovered yoga while spending three months in Beijing with the circus. The activity gave her a community in a country where she didn’t speak the language and tools to breathe through the discomfort and pain of her job as a performer. But back home in the U.S., the classes felt unduly serious and intimidating. Unable to find a practice where she felt comfortable, Istace decided to create her own.
Through her unique approach to yoga, Istace has been able to work through personal issues, including alcohol abuse in her younger years. “Honestly, it was a pretty destructive path,” she says. “I didn’t know what else to do with myself, and that often leads to things like anxiety and depression. But having yoga as a safe avenue to express what I needed to express and connecting to something within myself that was wiser than me really helped.”
Istace believes there are thousands of other people who could benefit from yoga as she has, but who also want to feel comfortable and not intimidated by a traditional class. In Rage Yoga, she seeks to break down the barriers holding people back from exploring the yoga experience. “I tell people that Rage Yoga is like gateway yoga,” says Istace. “We still do breath work and traditional poses and philosophies, but we go about it in a way that’s not as threatening.”
All About Attitude
To date, Istace, who is based in Canada, has certified 15 instructors in North America in the Rage Yoga method. Teachers hold classes in cities like Houston, Louisville and Cleveland, as well as virtually via online workouts. (If you want to try it at home, Istace offers two six-week programs online: Ferocious Foundations is geared toward beginners and Bendy & Badass is for intermediate/advanced yogis.)
Instructors who are drawn to Rage Yoga are usually already certified in traditional forms of the practice and are seeking something more personal: Many are looking for an additional therapeutic outlet to help them deal with anger and uncomfortable emotions from their own tumultuous pasts. “I come from a long line of people who just don’t know how to handle their shit,” Istace says bluntly. “My instructors have also gone through their own personal trials and needed a more aggressive way of channeling it into something different. They’re all badass, fierce people who know what they want and get it, and I respect the hell out of that.”
That abundance of emotion makes itself known in Rage Yoga classes, which are notably different in tone, if not technique, from what you’d find at a traditional studio. For one, people are encouraged to swear, and often enjoy beers while sitting on their mats in class. “We have people who teach in pubs, breweries and funky alternative spaces: I started teaching in Dickens Pub, a really cool, locally minded basement pub in Calgary—it’s like a Goth-y metal bar,” Istace says. “Having class in those spaces takes the edge off for students, allowing them to lean into class comfortably.”
And for newbies who can’t hold poses or need to stop to catch their breath, there are no judgments. “Instructors ask about injuries, but you never know what’s going on inside people’s bodies,” Istace says. “Like, I’m not your mom. If you try something and can’t do it, ‘f*ck that’ is always an option.”
Letting It Go
Along with the unifying experience of working through physical discomfort, Rage Yoga encourages participants to vocalize their pain. “You have so many parts built into the class where you’re permitted to scream and shout,” Istace says. “When everyone does it together, it’s like a bonding ritual.”
In keeping with the let-it-all-hang-out attitude, instead of finishing class with a traditional namaste, “our equivalent is to flip two middle fingers and to turn to your neighbor and be like, ‘f*ck yeah,’” says Istace. “It’s so much fun. Flipping off and swearing at each other really does bring you closer together.”
While the approach and philosophy of Rage Yoga might vary by instructor—some classes have a rock concert vibe, while others are brimming with fierce, warrior energy—the principals are the same. “Badass authenticity and unapologetic awesomeness are required,” Istace says, two qualities she hopes students will carry into the rest of their lives.
Though Istace admits that her life is far from calm these days (she had two car accidents and a breakup last year while working on the first-ever Rage Yoga book) she credits her practice and team of instructors for helping her stay sane and balanced. She also does breath work each morning, as well as meditation.
“When life puts you through the ringer, it’s a reminder of the things you need to do to be stable,” she says. “Those five minutes of meditation will change everything.”
Or in the words of a Rage Yogi, just (f*cking) breathe.