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In our advice column, called Wolf Wisdom, Wolf Terry, a Bhakti Yoga teacher and writer in Denver, Colorado, answers your pressing questions about practicing asana, meditation, mantra, and more. In this post, she covers how even spiritual people can get mad sometimes.
During an argument recently, someone asked me, “How can you get so mad when you practice yoga? Isn’t yoga about cultivating inner peace?” Where did this “spiritual people don’t get mad” stereotype come from, and how would you respond?
Sincerely :: Not Mother Teresa
Dear Not Mother Teresa,
There is a popular meme floating around the Interwebs that reads, “It’s funny when people think ‘yoga people’ are supposed to be calm. No. We’re all here because we’re nuts.”
Spiritual people—like all people—get mad. But social conditioning tells us that expressing any emotions other than contentment threatens to make other people uncomfortable. Even within the yoga community, emotions that don’t solely exhibit peace, love, gratitude, and joy are often stigmatized.
I view these perceptions as misinterpretations of the sutras, yamas, and niyamas because they completely overlook the transformational processes necessary to help you find contentment through accepting the whole of who you are-—the light and the dark.
Also, we tend to latch onto ideal results and blast past the practices of reckoning with the five kleshas (mental-emotional afflictions). In his book The Path of the Yoga Sutras, Nicolai Bachman defines the kleshas as “emotions or instincts that arise when our buttons are being pushed, causing a negative reaction instead of a positive action.”
Kleshas are something that we must face daily as yogis if we wish to overcome harmful behavioral patterns, through the lens of svadhyaya, or self-study. It’s like having a close friend hold up a mirror to reflect back shortcomings otherwise invisible to us, Bachman writes. Examining our reactions in svadhyaya is how we break down why we react in certain ways to certain people and ideas, and it helps us explore and practice positive action.
Yoga teaches us awareness, and when we are aware of our humanity, we can feel more comfortable expressing it. Maybe we are angry, frustrated, or upset because we practice yoga, because we are aware. For me, svadhyaya is always the perfect tool to evaluate how I should navigate a situation or interaction that puts me in a reactionary place—whether I follow through with it in those moments is another thing. I’m sure Mother Teresa had her moments, too.
Stay Mad, Stay Spiritual, Keep Practicing :: Wolf