Experimental yoga class in Chattanooga mixes meditative exercise with drinking and aggressive music [photos]

Restful relaxation in Rage Yoga may be partially induced by alcohol. Note the beers sitting on the mats in front of participants.

She can't be absolutely sure, but Tara Viland has a sneaking suspicion that, for someone like her, the expectation of quiet contemplation in a typical yoga class can be borderline lethal.

"I've always wanted to do yoga, but I'm loud," the 31-year-old Chattanoogan laughs. "The last time I tried to do it, I was almost reduced to tears when they put a blanket on me and made me be quiet for two minutes.... I literally almost exploded."

The venue manager of East Main Street event space The Granfalloon, Viland has a hearty laugh on a quick trigger and an abundance of energy that feeds a lifestyle she describes as "going, going, going all the time." Although she enjoys the physical benefits of yoga, the introspective, reflective undertone of most classes is out of sync with her exuberant personality.

"I didn't know how to handle the peace, I guess," she chuckles.

But earlier this summer, Viland came across a social media post mentioning a Canadian bar that hosted Rage Yoga, a class in which participants were encouraged to cut loose, drink a little and drop four-letter interjections with abandon. The idea immediately resonated with her, and she waited patiently for someone in Chattanooga to announce a similar event. When no one stepped up, she decided to host one herself at The Granfalloon.

Chattanooga's first Rage Yoga class took place Wednesday. If it's popular enough, Viland says, she would like to see the class become a monthly addition to the venue's event calendar.

Participants are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy a pre-stretch drink that's included with their $15 admission. Once the class begins in earnest, the regimen of poses is performed to a soundtrack of aggressive, uptempo bands like Tool and Rage Against the Machine as well as a healthy dose of gangsta rap. After the class concludes - with no blanket time or quiet contemplation to harsh their buzz - participants are free to stick around and continue drinking and socializing.

Even though the Rage Yoga class is capped at 50 students, a Facebook post leading up to the inaugural Chattanooga gathering listed more than 100 confirmed attendees and more than 400 who expressed interest in the concept. Apparently, Viland says, other people share her disinterest in mute mindfulness.

"Besides pictures of my kids, it's probably the most-liked thing I've put up on Facebook," she says. "Everybody has been really into it.... People are looking for ways to network that aren't, you know, in fussy little rooms with cocktails."

The class is led by Chelsey Breedy, a 29-year-old Chattanoogan who "half-jokingly" raised her hand when Viland took to Facebook to find an instructor for the course. Although she's not a certified instructor, for about 20 years Breedy has practiced kripalu yoga - a gentle yoga that emphasizes moving at your own pace and is a world away from Rage Yoga. She also taught children's yoga classes while living New Mexico.

To prepare for the first Rage Yoga class, she began not by choreographing the order of poses, but by crafting a musical playlist.

"Even having a get-together at our house, I try to plan the music first," she says. "I think music sets the mood for any event. I guess I wanted to make sure the poses I wanted to do flowed with what people were hearing in the background."

The other yoga wrinkle she had to take into consideration, Breedy admits, was the fact that each participant in Rage Yoga is encouraged to limber up with libations. While she wants participants to be relaxed, she says, there's such a thing as "too loose."

"I had thought about doing some easy inverted poses, but I decided not to do anything where your head is below your feet just for safety reasons," she laughs.

Alexis Hughes, 32, bought her ticket for Rage Yoga as soon as pre-sales became available on Monday. An office manager who works on an upper story of a building next to Granfalloon, she's practiced yoga at home but avoided classes because she lacks the free time and because, like Viland, she doesn't fit the yoga student mold.

"Most of the time, yoga is all about quiet concentration, and I'm really loud and boisterous," she laughs.

In the days leading up to her Rage Yoga outing, Hughes says she expected to find herself in the company of similarly spirited yogi and yogini. If their general spirit of raucousness resulted in the class going a bit sideways, so much the better, she says.

"I can't wait to see a bunch of people get lit up and fall over," Hughes laughs. "Balance exercises and wine and liquor don't go together, usually. I'm totally OK with it going off the rails."

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.