The Angry Yogi
by Megan Grandinetti
I just finished with an 18-day group tour of the East Coast of Australia, starting in Sydney and finishing in Cairns, with many, many stops along the way. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the 20+ then-strangers with whom I traveled, our Chief Experience Officer, the places we saw, and most of the things we did. I spent the night on a sheep farm, where I got to pet a sweet little wallaby named Sally. I rode a beautiful but wildly stubborn horse named Greta along a riverbed for hours. I slept on an old hippie commune in Byron Bay. I spent three days living on a boat, sailing around the gorgeous Whitsunday Islands. I went spear fishing with Aborigines and pulled shellfish off the roots of Mangrove trees. I practiced yoga in the most random and exciting places along the way, and I got to connect with loads of smart, fun, and interesting people from around the globe.
The trip wore on me, however. Spending 18 full-on days with people you’ve just met (sleeping together, traveling together, dining together—everything together) can be exhausting, no matter how much you like them. Having zero choice in what time you wake up, what you get to eat for breakfast, or how you spend your days can be overwhelming. And only having instant coffee in the morning with no other options for a coffee drinker like me—well, that was just plain cruel.
By the last three days of the trip, I was physically, socially, and emotionally exhausted. Zero energy left for bullshit. We had parted ways with half of our group and with our amazing CEO, and we were left in the hands of a local guide who didn’t seem particularly interested in taking care of us the way our CEO (whom we affectionately called “Dad”) did.
The last night, we were sleeping in swags (glorified sleeping bags with mini-tents covering them) in a field in Only God Knows Where, Australia, and a thunderstorm hit very close to where we were sleeping. The guide had mentioned that there would be somewhere to sleep if it rained, but he neglected to tell us where. Awakened by the storm and terrified, I wandered with one of the other campers until we found shelter with some friends. It was frightening to be in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, in the middle of a thunderstorm, with no idea where to go or how to stay safe. The next morning, our guide barely said a word to us. We packed up camp and started our journey home.
At a stop about two hours from our destination, the guide let us out for a bathroom break. All 12 of us were finished and waiting on the bus. The air conditioning was not on, and it was about 100 degrees outside and probably about 115 degrees in the bus (hotter than a hot yoga studio, for sure). Our guide was visibly relaxing at the bar, shooting the shit with his buddy, while we were suffocating and melting on the bus waiting for him.
That was the point where I would love to say that I was a calm, caring, centered yogi. The person who soothed everyone else on the bus with deep breathing exercises and good yogic energy. WRONG. After spending three days with this uncaring guide, after a scary night in the storm, after sitting in the hot, stifling bus for 12 minutes (I counted) waiting for this man—this person who was being paid to look after our well being and ensure our safe journey home—I lost it.
“I’m about to lose my shit on him,” I announced to my friends as I threw my water bottle on the bus floor and stood up, ready to fight a battle for all of us. “He can’t leave us on this [bleeeeeeping] bus like this. This is unacceptable.” I started off for the door, and my 11 new friends all tried to talk me out of telling this guy (let’s call him Bruce) off. I opened the door, spouted a few profanities, and closed it. Bruce didn’t notice, so I opened the door again, ready to storm over to the bar and pounce on him like a cheetah. At that moment, Bruce looked over and started to slowly saunter back to the bus. I slammed the door and started walking back to my seat, flustered, frustrated, ANGRY.
I looked at my new friends, all of whom seemed both surprised and horrified by this outburst, and I quite seriously said, “And THAT’s why I need yoga.” They all started laughing, but it’s true.
Before I practiced yoga regularly, I was almost always incensed about something. I carried my anger as a badge of pride, and I had no problem using my angry words or my sharp intellect to intimidate and shame other people.
Then yoga came into my life and WHAM, I was automatically free of all of this anger! (Ha. I wish.) As my practice has evolved, my behavior has slowly evolved, and my life has slowly evolved. But I am still, quite frankly, a work in progress. Although I’m able to remain calm and withstand crappy things in life with a lot more grace than I used to, there are still moments where I am just plain angry and where I lose control.
This moment on the bus was one of those moments. It is not a moment in life that I’m proud of. But it’s a good moment for sharing because, although many of you see the calm, happy, carefree yogi in the pictures traveling around the world, I am still a struggling, ordinary person (albeit a “weird” one by conventional standards).
Yoga doesn’t make you a saint or change you overnight, especially if all you’re doing is showing up to class once a week in a cute Lulu outfit and spending that one hour fantasizing about your future with the only hot guy in class.
Yoga can help you change your life if you commit yourself to your practice (all 8 limbs of it). But it’s not an overnight thing, it’s not a two year thing, and (just in case you were wondering) you’re not automatically evolved just because you have a 200-hour teacher certification.
We’re all works in progress. We all have emotions, we all have baggage, we all have our own shit to deal with. Even those happy, carefree, beautiful yogis that post pictures of themselves meditating or practicing in peaceful spots (see photo above).
The truth is, if it weren’t for yoga, I’d still be angry 50% of the time. Now, I’m only an angry yogi about 5% of the time. I’m hoping that one day, 5% will become 1%, and 1% will become .00000001%, but in the meantime, I’ll just keep working on it.
That work, my friends, is what yoga is really about.