Yoga and Anger Management
    Yoga and Anger Management

    Like all negative emotions, anger manifests detrimentally within the human body. Stiffness in the muscles, headaches or migraines, acidity, ulcers in the digestive system, and liver problems may be some of the ailments that result. Anger also leads to other negative emotions, for example, regret or guilt.

    Take the example of a mother reacting angrily to something her child may have said or done. She may regret her reaction and although apologetic for the anger, goes on to harbour feelings of guilt. Anger also leads to stress or may be caused by stress. Long-term anger can seriously affect the brain.

    Peace of mind is also destroyed by anger. When anger is experienced one constantly undergoes mental turmoil, uneasiness and frustration. This disturbed mind is similar to a rudderless boat in a stormy ocean, being tossed around from place to place without it being able to focus on the task or destination ahead.

    Anger causes hurt. Besides hurting the person at whom it is targeted (emotionally or physically), anger can boomerang causing even deeper and longer lasting self-hurt in the form of resentment, regret, shame and guilt. Moreover, acts of anger invariably portray you as a highly egotistical person.

    Most of us experience anger at some point or other and this is a natural reaction. It is when anger becomes the rule and not the exception that it becomes a problem and leads to the above.


    Psychologically there are several ways of ‘dealing’ with anger, such as suppression, expression, or diversion, however, these are not necessarily positive.

    Suppression: These techniques are supposed to be quick-fixes, e.g. ‘take a deep breath’ or ‘count to 10’, etc. These types of methods only provide temporary respite, if at all, and may even undermine our intelligence.

    Expression: Releasing your anger, frustration and stress by punching a pillow, screaming or throwing objects in a controlled environment. These ‘pseudo’ expressive techniques can seldom be successful, as they do not take into account complexity of the mind.

    Diversion: Becoming involved in an activity that keeps you away from the source of anger is often suggested as a way out. However, more likely than not, the ‘ignored’ anger will return with greater vengeance in due course.

    Suppression and diversion can cause the person to hold more and more anger within, and eventually they have to ‘explode’. This results in an outburst that is far worse to the person, those surrounding them and the environment than if smaller reactions had taken place. Expression as above may be destructive too, however, it may be useful if ‘your truth is expressed’ in a ‘non-violent way’. This is mentioned below.

    Yoga and Anger Management


    ‘Krodha or anger is one of the gates of hell (along with desire and greed). According to the Bhagavad Gita, anger comes from desire and causes confusion of memories and a loss of wisdom. However, when we assume the position of wisdom and watch ourselves experience intense emotions, our true nature can be revealed.’ (The Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga)

    In yoga we consider the mind to have three predominant states, these are sattva, rajas and tamas. Sattva is a mind state that is calm, peaceful and alert. It is the state of mind to which all yogis are aspiring. Tamas is when the mind is dull and lethargic. Rajas is when the mind is restless and overactive which may manifest as aggressiveness, hot-headedness, temper, intolerance and impatience. These qualities may cause this person to experience anger frequently.

    Rajasic behaviour can be modified by yoga practices, which include a sattvic vegetarian diet, slow deep stretching in the yoga asanas (exercises), specifically adapted pranayama (breathing practices) and meditation.

    Sattvic diet

    A diet that increases the rajasic temperament consists of animal flesh, chillies, spices, onions, garlic, caffeine food/drinks, alcohol, smoking, refined sugars and carbohydrates, and fast foods. A sattvic diet, which would help to pacify the rajas, consists of pure, wholesome and naturally delicious foods without preservatives or artificial flavouring. Fresh organic vegetables and fruit, herbal teas, fruit juices, nuts, seeds, grains, milk and butter would be on the menu. Eating these foods slowly and quietly calms the angry temperament.

    Yoga asanas and pranayama

    The emphasis for this practice is calming and cooling. I include more floor asanas, with slow, deep stretches and many forward bends. In the postures the person is encouraged to focus on their breath flowing in and out, the flow of the asana sequence thus becoming quite meditative and relaxing. Competitiveness is discouraged and hence one-on-one yoga lessons are advised. Pranayama should focus on cooling breathing practices and on lengthening the exhalations for stress release.


    Awareness of breath flowing in and out could become a meditation practice. Meditations in the beginning would be guided, perhaps starting with visualisations on calm, peaceful outside environments or on flowing water with the intention of ‘going with the flow’ (in all daily activities).

    Later on the meditations would shift to more inner work – like connecting with the inner Self; bringing joy and happiness into the heart; forgiveness of self and others; connecting with others with a loving kindness; meditation and the Tonglen meditation mentioned below.

    Yoga and Anger Management

    Referring to the old texts

    Looking at the second chapter of the ancient yoga text Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: Satya is one of five ethical guidelines of yoga known as the Yamas. Satya means to be truthful, have integrity, and to be authentic to your inner nature. Another Yama is ahimsa, which requires us to show loving kindness to others and ourselves, and to be compassionate and non-violent. Practising ahimsa involves a deep understanding that underlies every situation – you and your enemy are one, so you would never knowingly hurt anyone. Patanjali’s sutras state: ‘if a yogi would cause harm by the telling of the truth he should be silent instead’.

    Mahatma Gandhi, a true yogi and the epitome of this, honoured both satya and ahimsa simultaneously – truth and non-violence, which appear to be mutually exclusive. He harnessed the power of satya to lead a movement that ended British imperialism in India. He never stopped acting on, and speaking about, his perception of the truth, yet he did it all with ahimsa, with the intent to inflict no violence. Ultimately, Gandhi insisted that satya and ahimsa, truth and non-harming, are ‘two ways of looking at the same experiential fact’. How did he do it?

    According to his autobiography, Gandhi struggled throughout his life with aggressive feelings. In fact, rage against injustice fuelled his life’s work, but somehow he learned not to act out of anger. He developed the ability to separate the person from the person’s behaviour. ‘Man and his deed are two distinct things. It is quite proper to resist and attack a system, but to resist and attack its author is tantamount to resisting and attacking oneself.’

    Tantric teachings insist that the practice of ahimsa must originate with ‘an acknowledgment of the aggressor in us – the dark, ruthless side’. It is by sitting with our anger, feeling its intensity, its flavours, that we can grow to become truly non-harming and kind. Jack Kornfield (the well-known Buddhist author) writes, ‘Anger shows us precisely where we are stuck, where our limits are, where we cling to beliefs and fears’.

    Tonglen meditation

    An ancient yogic practice called Tonglen meditation is a technique to awaken the heart. Its essence is that on every in-breath you are willing to feel your own pain and that of everyone else feeling pain like yours. On the out-breath you connect to the joy of life and share that with all sentient beings. The idea of breathing in your anger along with the anger of all sentient beings may seem overwhelming, but when you try it, somehow it seems to make sense and the anger gives way to create spaciousness within. It may take months of this practice, but eventually, the relationship between satya and ahimsa, truth and compassion, starts to find comprehension and we can feel a transformation.

    Yoga teaches us that any experience can point us to the inner Self. Instead of being a prisoner of anger, we become its student. Use daily life experiences as ‘opportunities’ to breathe in the upset and anger and awaken your heart.

    continue to top