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Anger Management

Updated: May 22, 2020

“Ni tanto que queme al santo

Ni tanto que no lo alumbre” - Refrán popular

In catholic churches, one will see some images and statues of saints. People would often light candles in front of those, showing their devotion, asking for a favor or to express gratitude. This popular saying, that I guess is Mexican, is a metaphor and means literally that if the light is very little, it will not get to illuminate the image or statue of that saint, and if it’s too potent, it may burn it: Aim for balance.

One of my friends and a student at Imagine Yoga Studio posted on social media: “I meditate, I burn candles. I drink green tea, and I still want to smack some people”. I couldn’t suppress (why would I?) a huge smile on my face when I read this, it seemed this was talking about me!

Yes, that has been one of my challenges: anger management. I’ve talked to some people and I hear that many of us perceive ourselves as being on an emotional roller coaster, some people more depressed, some more anxious, some angry, some sad, some all of the above.

I have been consistently doing a specific prānāyāma (breathing exercise) that helps me to keep my system energized, and it works. This morning when I was choosing what to do in my personal practice, I decided, though, to choose something to bring more balance into my emotions. Yes, my practice had been efficient to bring my energy up, but I was very fast fuming and looking for objects to throw and smash, when triggered by specific things or comments.

Not always a great idea.

At the time when I was super angry yesterday, feeling (and most likely looking) like one of those cartoons of bulls ready to charge, with fumes coming out from their nostrils, I found a few options to release my anger:

1. To yell. Okay, a pretty good strategy if one finds the right time and place, not so good when the person who is receiving the fumes in their face is one's husband, who by the way had nothing to do with what incited my anger.

2. Use my Voice: a good alternative to yelling is chanting. It can be Vedic chanting, or singing something I love. This morning, I added chanting the sound of Om during exhalations in a sequence of movements.

Chanting helps to focus attention, it has an incredible potential to train our mind, and also to help us connect to our source of inspiration. This morning, as I chanted while moving, I felt the power of my voice and my own truth, and I could express that living, kindled power. To express is important, and, with chant, we can express without harming (unless one is bothering people around, so watch when you do it, you can trigger someone's anger!). It can also take us very deep into higher levels of consciousness.

3. To throw stuff and destroy things. Thought about it yesterday, but no, not a good idea at the time. I would need to create a special “playground” with cushions and fun things that one can throw away without harming anything or anyone. So, not an option, unless I would create a good space for that, and find perfect timing (being by myself for example).

An alternative: Yesterday, I used the efficient alternative to kick purposefully a few times with each leg, inspired by my mother’s moves (a black belt in Karate-do)

4. To go outside and walk, walk, walk, then pause, and breathe, breathe, breathe, then walk, walk, walk. Okay, that seems like a good idea to me, I did it yesterday and it had a good effect, getting rid of some stress hormones, putting the body in motion and getting some fresh air, while creating a mental space for clarity.

So, this morning, to prevent the “bull with fumes coming out of nostrils self” to take over again, what I chose was an asana practice to increase mental clarity, including some contralateral movements, and then a balancing prānāyāma, which was today Nadī Śodhana (alternate nostril breathing), for quite some time.

What are the strategies that will work for you right now?

I hope that you can sense what is going on with yourself, and then choose the tools that will help you to manage whatever arises, moment to moment.

If you want someone to help you tailor that practice, feel free to contact me and we can set a private yoga therapy session, online at this time, and in person when the circumstances allow.

Remember that a practice needs to be calibrated to meet your needs in different moments and circumstances, and these moments, as we know, are challenging and constantly and dramatically changing.

Sometimes we need to stop a practice, or to change it, sometimes to keep it the same, sometimes a walk around the block will work just fine, singing, dancing, cleaning the house, or a few moments of silence.

You have the power to change your body chemistry, to regulate (or deregulate!) your nervous system, to balance your energy and emotions, so play mindfully. When you design a personal practice assess, reassess, and be very, very, very patient with yourself! Consistent and mindful work will bear fruits over time, even in the meantime we have some setbacks from time to time.

My inspiration, black belt in karate, and lifelong yogini: my mother. Here a few years ago, at the Butchart Gardens

Food for thought:

Aristotle about anger:

“…Anger seems to listen to argument to some extent, but to mishear it, as do hasty servants who run out before they have heard the whole of what one says, and then muddle the order, or as dogs bark if there is but a knock at the door, before looking to see if it is a friend; so anger by reason of the warmth and hastiness of its nature, though it hears, does not hear an order, and springs to take revenge. For argument or imagination informs us that we have been insulted or slighted, and anger, reasoning as it were that anything like this must be fought against, boils up straightway;…”

- Aristotle, Book VII, 6

My comment: In my opinion, he refers to the uncontrolled and unconscious expression of anger. Anger is a normal human emotion. What can be and often is problematic is when anger takes over our actions, as Aristotle describes very well here. I believe that the energy that comes with anger may be used in beneficial ways by a very well-trained mind, and this is one of the things that we can work on when we do the deep work of yoga. This brings us to the question of ethics, and that's another topic in our yoga philosophy. The first one of the precepts we observe is Non harming.

Think about it.

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