There is a view that if you practice yoga, you will always be a peace-loving person that never gets angry. As someone who has been practicing regularly for the past few years, I can share from personal experience that this is not always the case! When I started in yoga and meditation, I loved the calm vibes that I experienced during and post yoga. However, I was also confused because some days I would leave yoga with a clear mind, yes….and angry feelings simmering. Angry thoughts and feelings would rise up during moments of stillness and sometimes, even now, I feel emotional rather than settled. I asked my yoga teacher Susie Garden who has practiced yoga and meditation extensively and asked “Is this normal? Why am I feeling angry?”
Susie explained in our always on world, humans don’t always pay attention to their feelings. Yoga and meditation turns the volume down on the outside world, the noise and invites stillness and quiet within. Stillness to listen and feel into what is often buried. Deeply held feelings and thoughts can rise up. As I completed my trauma sensitive yoga teacher training this year, this notion of the body releasing emotion through yoga, meditation and movement came up again. I found this fabulous article about angry feelings and meditation. The Body Keeps Score is an epic read that explains how the body stores every experience we have. Have a read through and let me know what you think!
Angry feelings that come up in yoga and meditation is not a bad thing. It’s what you do with the feelings that matter. There is nothing to label feelings as good, bad, ugly – whatever. Yoga asana and meditation is not a magic pill nor is it a band-aid to suppress thoughts, feelings or emotions or what potentially needs to change.
In my mind, yoga gives the chance to observe and feel what needs to be felt. This can be a painful experience for some people and it can be easier to self-soothe through over eating, drinking excessively or getting into habits that are abusive to yourself or others. For some, it is liberating to have the feelings out and in the world rather than stored in the body. Feelings and thoughts are not categorically good or bad. It’s what you do with feelings that matters. E.g. if you are angry, going and beating the living shit out of someone is not OK because that is abusive and damaging behaviour. As opposed to being angry and expressing this in a healthy way through speaking, writing, running or yoga. Of course, it’s SO easy to say this and for me it has been challenging at times for me to “take the high road”. How can we talk in a constructive way when it would be easier to hurl insults, for example. And yet, this is what this journey of self-enquiry asks you and me and people practicing yoga and meditation to do. To go beyond the physical practice we see, lean into old wounds and feel what hurts, see what needs to heal and take positive action to nurture yourself, heal your body, mind, spirit, relationships and environments and take the practice off the mat and into the world. It’s such a personal and unique experience for each person. One size does not fit all. When you heal yourself, you heal your community. Energy is currency and it is contagious.
If you find yourself angry in yoga, please remember it is OK and pretty normal. 😊 This is a great thing because the body is releasing emotions physically from the body. Part of being human is feeling and experiencing life in all her ups and downs and sometimes feelings don’t always make sense. That’s OK though, life does not always make sense. In terms of expressing anger, there are many ways to approach this and to find a way that is right for you and also finding the support you would like and may need. Below is a list of ideas you can take on the mat and off the mat to help ease how you feel.
Off the mat
- Speak to someone, a friend or family member. Social connection is super important for support. Humans are social creatures and designed to connect.
- Reach out for professional support and help. You can contact your local counselling service, doctor, Church, Pastor, spiritual counsellor, HR at work, you can obtain free online support or call an anonymous helpline if you would prefer. People are out there to help you.
- What is on your mind?
- What would you like to do to address this?
- What action can you take to resolve how you are feeling?
- Do you need to have a tough conversation with someone or do you need to ease back on workload or do you need to make small or big changes in your life?
- Embrace a physical practice like running or going to the gym. Sometimes I know I have energy bottled up and need to physically run or do something to release emotions and shift energy.
- Get into nature and out of your regular routine. Connect with this beautiful world we get to call home.
- What are you eating? What is your lifestyle like? Poor food and lifestyle choices are big contributors to stress and angry feelings. Something as simple as going to sleep an hour earlier each evening can help to ease angry feelings. You may simply be tired!
- Massage is pretty great to get the knots out physically and stretch out mentally. Touch and connection is super healing for the body, mind and spirit. When you hug someone for at least 20 seconds, oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is the feel good hormone flowing through the body during hugs! 😊
On the mat
- Take note if you feel angry doing specific meditation and breathing exercises or yoga poses. There are some poses that can aggravate the body and mind and it’s worth noting the time and type of yoga you are practicing because there are heating postures and cooling postures. Heating postures create energy and involve strong poses, dynamic movements and can be great to stimulate the body and mind if you need energy for a big day ahead and not great if you are getting ready to go to sleep and can keep you up at night because of energy flowing. Cooling postures start to bring attention and energy inwards and what can often be incorporated into a yin yoga practice.
- Choose your practice carefully – if you would like to focus on breathing exercises to calm the body and mind yoga nidra and alternate nostril breathing can balance out the left and right side of the brain. Whereas kapalabhati breathing is a strong breathing exercise (not to be practiced if you have high blood pressure, pregnant or have respiratory conditions) that can shift energy and potentially leave you feeling wired.
- Maintain a consistent practice. I have found a regular practice has helped me so much to find some balance and work through uncomfortable feelings and embrace how I am, warts and all.
Hang in there my yoga lovers if you leave the mat feeling cranky, keep practicing and remember to embrace all of you as you are. Finding your edge and maintaining practice is where your yoga will begin and is the beginning of a beautiful new and healing journey.