All of us will feel angry from time to time. It’s a perfectly human reaction and it tends to come in two forms – empowering anger, where we feel galvonised and able to take positive action (against social injustice for example) and disempowering anger, where we feel powerless, in fear and bitter.
Anger triggers our fight or flight response, flooding our body with stress hormones. If this continues for too long, our physical and mental health can be affected, leading to anxiety, depression and high blood pressure.
For some of us, disempowering anger can become all-encompassing and we may need support to manage it. There are various approaches you can take to manage anger, including dedicated anger management courses and talk therapy.
A complementary approach such as yoga could be exactly what you need to enhance the work you’re doing to both manage and transform your anger.
Yoga is a physical and mental practice that encourages us to be more mindful and in tune with our emotions. This is key because often when we struggle with anger it’s because we haven’t identified or dealt with negative emotions appropriately.
A key element in yogic theory is Svadhyaya (self-study). Studying your reaction and emotions when you start to feel angry can help you be more self-aware, helping you understand your triggers and what helps you calm down.
When we’re angry, our body tenses up. Yoga poses can also help us channel the anger we feel into a physical movement, helping to release excess energy and tension.
Yoga also incorporates a number of different breathing techniques and many of these are designed to calm the nervous system (such as alternate nostril breathing). This can be a useful practice to come back to when you feel anger in everyday scenarios and are unable to practice the physical poses of yoga.
For the times you can practice yoga however, the following poses can be helpful for reducing anger and encouraging a calmer state of mind.
This pose can help calm your mind and improve mind-body connection. Start by kneeling on the floor, sitting back on your heels. Bend forward from your hips over your knees until your chest comes into contact with your thighs (or as close as you can get). Keep your hands either extended out in front of you (palms on the floor) or keep them by your side (palms facing up).
Improving blood circulation to your head, the fish pose can help you regain control of your anger and make you feel more calm. Begin by lying on your back with your legs extended and your arms behind your back, palms facing the floor. Press your forearms and elbows into the floor and lift your chest to create an arch in your upper back. Aim to have the crown of your head lightly touching the floor.
Inversions are great for stabilising your nervous system. To do shoulder stand, lie on your back with your hands at your side and your feet together. Lift your legs up to form a 90 degree angle with your body. Use your arms to support and lift your body up by bending the elbows and keeping your pals under your waist.
If you find this difficult, try legs up the wall pose instead for the same calming effect.
If you’ve never tried yoga before, we recommend having some classes with a teacher to ensure you’re moving in a safe way. You can use our search tool to find a yoga teacher near you.