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Can Cursing Calm You Down?

The use of four-letter words is unexpected in a yoga class, but research shows that swearing has its benefits (in the right environment).

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Scrolling through my Insta one day, looking for a bit of inspiration, I landed on a video of a woman doing plank variations. While this isn’t out of the ordinary in my feed, her affirmation made me pause and pay attention.

These days, we’re seeing more and more meditation coaches and yoga instructors who don’t hesitate to offer affirmations that are a little…salty. They’re knocking the veneer off the idea that being a yogi means you have to be a soft-spoken, easy-going peacenik. And we’re here for it.

What the f….?

While we expect to hear more Sanskrit than swearing in yoga class, people who curse are practicing a form of satya. In our society, we often associate foul language with bad behavior, but researchers have found that profanity use is associated with honesty.

“Profanity has a really important power,” says Emma Byrne, author of Swearing Is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language. Cursing helps us communicate our strongest feelings. It ensures we have someone’s attention when we have something important to say. And unless you’re cursing at someone, it’s usually a harmless way to blow off steam.

Another benefit of letting an F-bomb fly once in a while: it may even help increase your tolerance for physical pain.

Keeping it real

Some of our favorite yoga teachers have been known to let an F-bomb fly in class. Jessamyn Stanley has a whole chapter in her book Every Body Yoga titled “What the Fuck is the Eight Limbed Path?” and a sequence for when “I Need to Chill the F Out.”

If you follow yoga instructor Brittany Floyd-Mayo—known to her followers as @TrapYogaBae—you will also receive her weekly “Ratchet Affirmations.” Need a bigger boost of confidence? Join her Trap Yoga Tribe to download her recorded “Ratchet Meditations.”

Canadian yoga instructor Lindsay Istace, founded Rage Yoga, which she describes as “alternative yoga for the modern badass.” Her classes include plenty of R-rated language and loud music. A  favorite “mudra” highlights a strong middle finger.

“The goal of Rage Yoga is to make you feel like such an empowered badass on your yoga mat, that that feeling follows you into your daily life,” she says.

There’s nothing wrong with a serene yoga class, she says. But her classes are for people who find it easier to calm down after “letting go of that F bomb you’ve been holding onto all day.”

Know your audience

Obviously, using expletives in yoga or meditation settings isn’t always appropriate or welcomed. Keep it in context. A calming Zen or restorative class is probably not the place to drop an F bomb, But if you’re in a class where trap music, hip-hop, or hard rock music is played, people are probably going to be unfazed by the use of profanity.

But let us be clear: Racist, sexist, and homophobic slurs are never, ever acceptable. And the point is not to swear at people. Directing your bad language at someone clearly goes against ahimsa.

If in doubt, watch your mouth.

See also: This Hip-Hop Infused Flow Will Elevate Your Heart Rate—And Your Practice