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Releasing Anger With Yoga

Posted by on Dec 28, 2011

Krishna makes it very clear, “From anger comes delusion, from delusion loss of memory, from loss of memory ruination of discrimination, from ruination of discrimination the man perishes.” Often our anger stems not from present circumstances, but from hurts or rebuffs of the past. It can be very difficult to let a seeming slight go but it is imperative not only for our continued spiritual advancement, but for our physical and mental health. 

The ultimate goal of yoga is liberation from Samsara, or  the eternal cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth. Many ancient yogic texts talk about this cycle, no matter if you consult the Vedic sages’ writings, those of the Tibetan Buddhist Monks or even Zen masters from Japan. They all agree that feeling excessive anger is one sure-fire way of staying stuck in Samsara. Anger is essentially just a thought wave, called a chitta-vritti in Sanskrit. If we continuously hold one thought wave pattern in our minds, then our consciousness follows that pattern. We then become stuck in it and all other experiences are filtered through that thought-wave pattern.

According to Patanjali, the mind can only express or reflect the consciouness of the Atman, or the eternal and unchanging face of the soul. When we feel angry, Consciousness  becomes clouded or agitated like a pool of water rippled by a strong wind so that it cannot see its own reflection clearly. Instead of the crystal clear perception of the Atman, we see reality affected by ego. This leads to false identification and a feedback loop of more anger. Patanjali states it thusly in his sutras (I.9), “Verbal delusion follows from words having no corresponding basis in reality. In order to experience our ripple-less calm and peaceful self, we must control the anger thought forms that would unsettle the perfection we truly are. 

So How Do I Stop Anger With Yoga? 

The true methods of controlling the chitta-vritti, or thought patterns, are to stop the mind, but most people have a difficult time doing this and many spend tens and even hundreds of years perfecting their mind through meditation to realize a perfectly calm Consciousness that reflects only the Atman, however there are other things you can do aside from sitting quietly in contemplation if this is challenging for you: 

  • Practice asana. Each yoga posture has a specific effect on the mind, body and emotions. Feelings of anger can often be assuaged with Downward Facing Dog, Pashimottanasana, Reclined Hero’s Pose or more than a dozen other postures.
  • Breath deep, yogic breaths. Instead of chasing away your anger, or sublimating it (as psychologists would say) just observe it. See if it creates a physical feeling in the body and stay with it. Does it make your chest feel constricted, give you a headache or other bodily pains? Often, just breathing in a calm manner and observing the discomforts associated with the feeling will start to allow the anger or thought wave pattern to dissipate.
  • Own your anger, and then let it go. Don’t blame your mental state on what others are saying, thinking or doing. This is your perception you are trying to change and no one elses. The minute you take responsibility for your own feeling and intellectual states, the closer you are to freeing your mind from the pattern that has been established. 

Swami Vivekananda states that often, “. . .A word is uttered and we do not wait to consider its meaning; we jump to conclusion immediately. It is the sign of weakness of the chitta. Now you understand the theory of restraint. The weaker the man [or woman], the less she has of restraint. Examine yourself always by that test. When you are going to be angry or miserable, reason it out how it is that some news that has come to you is throwing your mind into vrittis.” 

It may take time to learn to control the feeling states of anger, but with practice and the utilization of yogic tools, one can find happier, more joyful states of mind. 

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