“If I could only get over being so angry all the time,” my friend said. “It’s like I have the urge to buy an assault rifle.”
Not that he would do anything with it, he quickly added, but that it somehow matched what he was feeling.
I ran into this same young man the other day when we happened to be in a yoga class together. I’d known him several years before and at the time, his wife of only 10 years had recently died.
I remembered him in particular for the raw grief he had been feeling and for his need to talk and talk about his wife—and for his comment about the assault rifle.
This was not the first time I’d heard this kind of grief-filled emotion and I could relate. After my brother’s baby died, my brother kept saying that everything was “fine” except he felt like killing the guy in the next car whenever he pulled up to a traffic light.
“Have you ever tried yoga?” I had asked my widower friend all those years ago when we met for coffee one day. I told him about my brother’s baby dying and how angry I myself was. How I couldn’t stand to think about the unfairness of the baby’s death and how my feelings would overcome me when I least expected it.
I told him that anger and rage were legitimate forms of grief.
One of the things I have learned about yoga is that it makes me bigger on the inside. When I am in pain, it opens me up in ways that allow me to absorb the pain, rather than the pain absorbing me. It calms me down and gives me distance from my suffering and it does this all while I’m not looking.
All I have to do is go to yoga on a regular basis and the rest more or less happens on its own. While I’m trying desperately to not fall on my face in a balance pose, my inner self is finding its own balance quietly and gracefully without any effort on my part whatsoever.
When my brother’s baby died I went to lots of yoga and I began to notice after the fact that my anger had dissipated and that I didn’t ache the way I had. I began to feel not only that the wound had been healed, but more than that, I felt more resilient as well. Stronger. These days, I go to yoga as much as for the ways in which it quenches my spiritual thirst as for the ways in which it relieves my aching back.
In the restorative yoga session the other day I looked over just as the instructor was placing an extra blanket under a man’s foot. The man lay on his side, his head resting on the bolster the instructor had given him. I saw his shoulders and his back and noticed the regular cadence of his breathing. At that moment, I recognized him as the widower friend I used to know and, when the class was over, I waited for him in the lobby.
He remembered me and yes he’d been going to yoga for about two years but not at this studio and, yes, wasn’t it a coincidence that we happened to come to the same class. When we walked outside on the way to our cars he stopped at the curb and turning to face me said:
“I just want to tell you something. I’ve never told anybody but you about how I was feeling in those days—you know, about the anger and the rage.”
“I’m glad you told somebody,” I responded. “It was way better than keeping the lid on.”
We laughed. And that was when I could tell how he was different. There was a tenderness in his face that I had not seen there before.
“Yoga really saved me,” he added, his eyes looking directly into mine.
“Me too,” I told him. “Many times over.”
He went on to say that he certainly never thought he’d be a guy to be doing yoga. But he’d had to do something. He really did think he was going to explode. From the very first class he felt like the pressure was off. Even the quiet environment of the yoga studio was something that simply felt good.
He went to one class and then just kept going to another one and then another one. He didn’t know what kept drawing him back. But, sooner or later, he started to notice that he wasn’t feeling so tied up as he had been, that he wasn’t hurting all the time and that he wasn’t angry anymore about her dying; he just missed her. He felt relieved because that was the way he wanted to feel about her—not angry.
He added that it was funny, but his wife had always wanted him to go to yoga with her but he’d always passed it off, like he said, as something “guys” didn’t do.
“Now, in a strange way,” he said, “Yoga is where I go to find her.”
“And, oh yeah. just so you know,” he commented. Remember what I told you about the assault rifle? Well, I don’t keep having that urge to buy one anymore.”
He reached over and patted me reassuringly on my shoulder.
“Now, I spend all my money on yoga props.”
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Travis May