Releasing Anger Through Restorative Yoga
Anger is a natural human emotion. For most of us it feels uncomfortable and challenging, yet it can’t be wished away. Yoga offers us skillful techniques to constructively work with anger rather than deny or repress it.
In spiritual circles, there may be an expectation that once on the path we will only experience peace and joy—that if you have anger you somehow aren’t spiritual. This myth can be damaging. We are embodied beings on the earth with all its complexities. We experience incredible beauty but also injustices. Like all emotions, anger is an ever-shifting state involving thoughts, feelings, and physical changes. Anger informs us that something has triggered us. There are messages for us if we look deeply within. We must allow ourselves to feel and acknowledge our anger. We can then investigate and discover its root cause. Anger can eventually point us toward the actions we need to take. And like fire, it will wane and eventually dissolve.
Why Yoga Is So Effective
Anger and stress can become difficult to manage as the mind becomes loaded with worry, memories of the past, and anticipation of the future. Yoga offers us space and time to practice witnessing awareness and remain in the present moment. When we allow ourselves to be quiet, we can look within, watch the movements of the mind, and see clearly. It is from this place that we become less reactive, make discerning choices, and create the changes we wish for in our lives. Our practice teaches us how to remain steady with anger and ride it like a wave. We stay with the raw emotion until it moves through us, loses power, and dissipates.
Restorative yoga is a style that is soft, slow, and meditative. This soothing practice is an antidote to the busyness of life and the daily stresses that can create anger. Exhaustion and restlessness in the body can lead to irritation and agitation in the mind. Anger can become upsetting and even dangerous if we do not have mastery over ourselves. This tranquil practice consists of a handful of simple postures that rely on the use of props and prolonged holds. The asanas move our prana or life force energy into areas of blockages or stagnation. With breath awareness, this is transformative. Restorative yoga is one of the most effective ways to channel and move energy consciously through the body. When we learn how to do this in a class, we can apply these methods to situations in our lives.
It is essential to be comfortable and relaxed in restorative poses. By feeling physically supported, tense muscles let go. Rather than extending intensive effort, you receive the greatest benefits by releasing and surrendering into the postures. The effects are deeply nourishing, healing, and rejuvenating. In a restorative practice, there is an opportunity to tune in to what is fueling your anger and learn to sit with it while it moves through you.
Because we take our time and breathe consciously into our postures, restorative yoga slows down the heartbeat and elicits the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). This helps to alleviate the effects of the regular fight-or-flight stress response that can be extremely harming to our overall physiology and wellness. The soothing effect on the adrenals and nervous system allows the mind and body to reach a state of repair and renewal. There is a silent spaciousness between each thought—the space from which we can glimpse the divine soul within. We feel expansive in a restorative practice. As we go inward we may experience a profound sense of compassion. We develop more patience, understanding, and kindness toward ourselves and others. There is a keen awareness of deep unity. Humankind shares life’s gifts and pleasures and, as well, we share losses, challenges, and suffering. We all move through life’s inevitable highs and lows. Ultimately through insight, we can discern our connection to each other and universal consciousness.
It provides respite from life’s turbulence. Our attention is drawn away from external situations and events which opens us up to new levels of self-exploration and contemplation. Through mindful practice we become increasingly aware of our actions and how they influence our own comfort or discomfort. We may learn that we get angry because we've developed the habit of reacting angrily instead of with tolerance. We may see that we are angry because we are attached to something or someone that is taken away. We may recognize anger as hurt or sadness and then sit with that rather than reacting. During practice, we can even set an intention to let go of anger through focused awareness on thoughts and physical sensations.
As our practice unfolds, we perceive the direct cause and effect relationship between our postures and breath and how this effects our well-being. As this experience continues to deepen, we begin to make more deliberate and attentive choices, both on and off the mat. Our deep breathing is extremely effective in dissolving anger. We can draw from our practice during agitated moments anytime anywhere. Our breath is always with us. During a tense situation, we can pause and take a deep diaphragmatic breath. This slow breathing serves us instantly. We become wiser in the way we express ourselves, in the way we interact in the world, and in how we express discontent. With restorative yoga, we experience well-being and contentment within ourselves. From here we can be of service to others. Our dedicated practice may genuinely benefit everyone we meet along the path.