Anger is a very interesting emotion to investigate. Any kind of yoga practice can help us explore different themes that come up during our asana practice. We gain perspective and patience in allowing things to unfold without intensifying the already high heat of emotions. In fact, our practice can help cool things down and slow our natural impulse to take immediate action, using a few simple techniques. Managing stress is an important part of dealing with anger and transforming it into wise and well thought out action.
How Yoga Helps
Yoga is a perfect practice to help deal with anger in a healthy way. The essence of Yoga is peace.
That being said, not very many yogis are walking around as enlightened beings beaming with joy and peace, all day and night. In fact, I think yoga teachers are given ever more challenging assignments from the universe to allow us to truly test out if we can practice what we preach, and try to become more proficient!
However, we are very lucky because we have so many ancient scriptures and practices to fall back on when we are dealing with emotional dis-stress, and guide us through the storms we face. We can use the practice to help us cool the fires of the emotions, and use the wisdom of the second brain – the guts – to look at the source of our anger.
We use the breaths to cool the fires of he 3rd Chakra around the area of the navel, and create more room for an energy exchange in this area. We slow down the breaths and pause at the end of the out breath for a moment, and this practice helps slow down time for us. This is how we cultivate more time between action to a source of anger and a reaction. It’s in this space that we can look at our emotions intelligently, allow them the light of our awareness, and to allow ourselves TO FEEL THE FEELINGS FULLY!
We get out of thoughts of the past and the future and into the breath that is happening in the present moment. We get out of the head and into the body and feel where those emotions are showing up in our legs, our hips, our back, neck, shoulders, jaws and even our scalp! And we use the breath to move that energy out and down, so we can invite fresh energy that will move us into our next moment.
Asana and Pranayama Practices
When I’m feeling upset, I sense a lot of upward moving energy as the emotion is expressing itself in my body. Aside from Lions’ Pose, (which really is a lot of fun if you are arguing with your loved ones), I love standing poses to help move that excess energy downward, so feel strongly connected to the earth though the lower half of my body.
Watch the Healing Yoga webisode for Anger below:
When we are grounding through the legs, and using slow breaths to feel the cooling energy of the earth coming up, this can be a very refreshing practice. Use Sitali (the curled tongue breath) to cool things down even more. I love all the standing poses for this. Mountain, Tree, even Warrior done in a strong way can be very helpful.
I also love restorative poses like Supported Child’s Pose, either on the ground, or using a bolster up against a table. I love the idea of breathing into the back of the body, and really completing the out breath. Supported Twists with a bolster are also wonderful.
- Using the Viloma 2 breath (interrupted out breath) is a wonderful way to dampening down the fire of the belly in a gentle way. It’s during these quiet moments in our practice that we can access our gut feelings and experience inner sight, insights and cultivate new ways of looking at situations. The element of the 3rd Chakra is fire, which creates light for inner sight – insight. It’s should come to no surprise to learn that our actual eyesight is governed by the energy of the 3rd Chakra!
When the heat of the moment has passed, and you feel like you’ve spent that excess energy, spend the rest of your practice in a gentle inversion and take a long Savasana.
- Lie down and support your lower legs on a chair, or put you legs up the wall for Viparita Kirani. Focus on opening the heart as you breath naturally. It’s right now in the present moment that we can experience the power of the 4th Chakra, the power of loving kindness, and cultivate feelings of forgiveness. By forgiving, we mean, giving up the hope for a different outcome for something that has already happened. It’s here at the end of the practice in a quiet way, we can try forgiving people, forgiving situations, forgiving ourselves for wanting others to be different, forgiving ourselves for our own terrible behaviour and other garden-variety transgressions.
Spend 10 to 20 minutes resting in Savasana with a support for the length of the whole spine and allow the heart centre to open gently. Hot emotions like anger are very hard on the heart so gentle heart openers are very important to include in your daily practice!
Allow thoughts to show up all through your practice, but still catch yourself thinking and gently and kindly guide your awareness back to your breath. We keep coming back to our practice, no matter how enticing the storyline of our thoughts might be! The mind can be very strong, but as BKS Iyengar tells us, “Breath is King of Mind”.
After your Savasana, compare how differently you now perceive the source of your anger. Do you feel like there are more options available to you now? Do you feel more yourself and more in control of how your will react? Perhaps you feel like no reaction is the best reaction.
Chronic Anger – A Pitta Imbalance?
Is your Ayurvedic constitution predisposing you to anger? Take this online questionnaire to find out what your Dosha is.
There are 3 main energetic constituents of our makeup, according to ancient Ayurvedic knowledge, and if your constitution leans toward Pitta (the energy of fire), you may be more prone to feeling anger. There are many ways to deal with calming the hot, fiery, Pitta part of our constitution, including eating grounding and cooling foods and practicing meditation. Find an Ayurvedic practitioner who can help you develop a health plan to let the cooler aspect of your personality prevail.
No matter what your Ayurvedic constitution, you can find relief from anger through this practice. We see how it unfolds with more awareness, and we can manage the emotions that come with compassion and intelligence.
That is the heart and soul of the practice of yoga.
– Deborah Devine
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