How To Deal With Anger - The Yogic Way
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
It's easy to be a loving yogi when everything is going our way. What happens though when we are "wronged." We lose our job. Our spouse cheats on us. Our children are "poking the tiger." We do not get that coveted appointment? Chances are we get sad or externalize this sadness into anger. If you're prone to uncontrolled anger which is dangerous and unhealthy, keep reading.
Anger triggers the fight-or-flight response, which floods the body with stress hormones, and the long-term physical effects of uncontrolled anger include anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, headache, heart attack, and decreased immune response. Not to mention we might find ourselves doing things that we might regret when we "lose our minds."
Here's how to take yourself "off the ledge" in yogi style:
1. Practice Svadhyaya – Study Yourself When You Are Angry
THE most beneficial Niyama is the study of self, svadhyaya. Nothing else we do in our practice will amount to much if we are not paying attention to our thoughts, actions and emotions in everything we do. The studying of ourselves is done with compassion. Throw out criticism, judgement and guilt. Those emotions are not productive.
Allow yourself to witness yourself which is very different than being the experience.
Pay attention to the details of your anger. Notice what triggered the anger. If possible, journal about the experience to keep a record that you can reflect back and notice patterns. Eventually, witnessing and data collecting will help you problem solve and create new solutions.
NOTE: If you are in a dangerous, abusive or soul crushing circumstance get away from the situation as best you can. No clarity will come while under the influence of the triggers.
2. Saucha – Practice Eating Clean to Release Anger and Balance Your Body From the Inside Out
What we eat affects how we feel. Processed foods will magnify the emotional fluctuations because they aren't long lasting sources of fuel and they do not feed the body with nutrients. So on top of being pissed off, we're fueling the emotional rollercoaster. Additionally it takes a lot more effort for the body to detox from these foods hence adding unnecessary energy expenditure.
Certain foods are rajasic and over stimulate the body. Foods and stimulants like sharp spices, hot oils, coffee, chocolate, and meat of animals and fish, increase the heat and rajasic energy in the body, which is associated with increased feelings of anger.
3. Ishvara Pranidhana – Believe in Something Bigger Than Yourself
Anger can be a source of learning and bring awareness to shadow sides of ourselves. The Dalai Lama once said that, “We can see subconscious anger in terms of a lack of awareness, as well as an active misconstruing of reality.”
When anger is approached with mindfulness, loving kindness, and non-attachment, it can act as a springboard to help us explore the depths of our psyche and build a relationship with something bigger than what our mind may twist to construct as “reality.” By practicing Ishvara Pranidhana, surrendering to a higher being or contemplation of a higher power, anger becomes less the focus of pain and more a place of growth and learning.
4. Asana – Get Moving at the Studio, Park, Beach or Your Living Room
Fun fact: Our bodies cannot be tense and relaxed at the same time. Go ahead try it....I'll wait. So yelling at yourself to hurry up and "get over it already' or "relax and chill" doesn't really work to get us out of the anger mode.
Instead accept the fact that you are angry and the circumstances that provoked the emotion. Fighting it, pretending it does not exist or waiting for emotions to change will give anger a chance to fester. Decide that you're not going to act on it and go to yoga. Not able to get to your studio when you need it in that moment of fury. Take a child's pose (unless you're driving). Go to the park or beach and practice your handstands. Go for a walk and listen to your favorite yogic book on Audible. It's really, really difficult to be angry when focusing on that elusive pose I've been practicing or dodging traffic as I walk like I'm being chased by a T-Rex.
Asana and exercise will begin to regulate the body. The space created between the emotion and reaction will also save your reputation. Lol.
5. Pranayama – Breathing Techniques to Balance the Body and Release Anger Induced Tension
There is a direct correlation with our breath, mind and emotions. Notice how shallow and fast the breath is when we are angry. Choosing the right breath exercise is critical.
Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing) will calm the nervous system and release anger induced tension. Bastrika Pranayama (Bellows Breathing) draws in more fire and rajasic energy.
One of my all time favorite breathing techniques is belly breathing:
Lay on your back
Place your right hand on your navel.
SLOWLY inhale allowing your belly to expand (instead of contract) on each inhale.
Slow down the pace and length of each inhale a little bit at a time.
What do you do to manage anger?
All my love
Vikky Santana 500hr-E-RYT, 200hr-RYS
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