Anger: we all know it, many of us well. But at a yoga party, it would be gauche to bring up the raging intensity sitting in your gut. We’re all focusing on the positive here, right?
Not exactly. Yoga is in part a practice for life. It’s natural and normal to feel anger, and yoga can help us find the compassionate action that the anger is sometimes trying to point us toward.
Anger comes in different forms. Empowering anger is a galvanizing force: It has a clarity like a laser beam, reveals injustice, and gives us an Incredible Hulk-like disdain for consequences. Empowering anger says, “Why have I been so worried about rocking the boat? There ain’t no more boat to rock!”
Disempowering anger is a bitterness that buries itself deep in our guts, disguising the powerlessness, fear, or grief that live in its kernel. This kind of anger is confusing, and its actions are rarely compassionate. Sometimes this bitterness remains after empowering anger has come and gone. You may have done your best to fight injustice, but afterwards injustice still exists.
The mindfulness practice of yoga can help us discern what we are feeling: Is this anger empowering or disempowering? It can also physically move excess energy, especially when we stimulate manipura chakra, an energy center located in the solar plexus. It’s right where you feel anger, fear, and anxiety.
The following practices can help direct you away from confusion and toward clarity and compassionate action. As always, check with your doctor if you are pregnant or have other concerns.
Vigorous movement: get thee to Power yoga. Heat, sweating, and deep breathing give the fire what it wants. Trying to “just breathe” and sit still may only harden it into bitter coal.
Abdominal work: All core work stimulates manipura chakra. My favorite is scissor kicks:
- Lay on your back with your hands behind your head and your legs raised straight up to the ceiling.
- Inhale while raising your shoulders up, exhale while raising your tailbone up, avoiding swinging your legs towards your face, and stay.
- Exhale and extend your right leg straight out in front of you, bringing your right elbow towards your straight left leg. Inhale while returning back to center and repeat on the left.
- Keep moving with your breath, or begin to switch your legs as fast as you can, twisting at the belly. Keep your legs straight and the breath strong and even. Try to switch 20 or 30 times. When you come back down and release your legs to the floor, you will feel a glowing fire right in your solar plexus.
The woodchopper: Stand with your feet shoulders distance apart, knees slightly bent. Interlace your fingers and bring them up over your head as if you were holding an axe. Imagine what you’d like to chop. Give it something tangible that your blade could destroy. Bring your hands down hard and yell HA! as loud as you can—this is the mantra of manipura chakra. Do it as many times as you want, as loud as you can. When you feel complete, stand softly with your eyes closed.
After any of these practices be open to what comes next. Journaling can help clarify what you feel. If you start to cry, try not to hold anything back: the intention is to unstick the energy. You may feel clean and clear or you may discover there is something you need to do. Trust your instincts. You have all the courage you need.