When was the last time you got palms-sweaty, heart-racing, throat-clenching angry?
I’ll tell you mine. Yesterday. I had had a good run of it, too, before yesterday’s incident. It would be so easy to blame the Pitta in me, but the truth is, I let my emotions overtake me. I overindulged my imbalanced third chakra, and let the anger wash up like a painful rage wave destined for damage.
I said things I didn’t mean and my ego, bruised, clung to what I said rather than immediately admit fault. After the fight came the flee, as it usually does. I took a long walk in the chill autumn evening to decompress.
I kept thinking: How can I get rid of this feeling as soon as possible?
For my pre-yoga self, the answer to that question would have been to leave. To run away and never look back. Because for my pre-yoga self preserving my peace was the most important.
Instead, I examined how the anger felt in my solar plexus chakra. It was buzzing. And my throat, how it closed up on itself, almost trying to hold the barbed words in before I said them. And my breath, how I couldn’t slow it down until I was away from the situation.
Then I looked into my heart, and I saw the damage and pain I had caused to someone I loved. As soon as I looked here, the answer was clear as to how I could get rid of this feeling as soon as possible: Apologize.
When I got home, that’s what I did.
The upside of anger
We are all ticking time bombs of emotions. Some we show, others we hide. We think we’re in control of our lives, when most of the time it’s our emotions that are calling the shots.
This certainly was the case for me before I practiced yoga. Being able to control my emotions seemed impossible back then. If that’s where you’re at now, believe me, I can relate. No day went by where I wasn’t resisting my feels in an attempt to live a more balanced, even-keel life.
The problem with the resistance approach is that there’s no movement. And when there’s no movement, there’s no fluidity and balance in your life.
How can you become more okay with emotional discomfort when all you want to do is run and hide? How do you accept the emotions you don’t want to feel?
- See every emotion as valid. It has a reason for rearing, and your job is to sleuth it out. Which brings us to…
- Let the emotions be felt in the body. Where is the emotion physically? How does it feel? Lukewarm or hot? Red or blue? Thanks to the chakra system, there’s a way to identify and visualize these swirling sentiments within your body in order to move them through. (More on the chakras in forthcoming Weekly Dharmas.)
When you get curious about the sensations that emotions physically create, you begin to recognize them as apart from yourself. You observe their predictability, perhaps even laugh at it. For example, anger, without fail, lights up in the third chakra, as does anxiety.
When you dedicate time to mapping your emotional body, you, too, will get a different answer to the question: How can I get rid of this feeling as soon as possible?
Algae-infested pools vs. sun-dappled streams
The funny thing about finally having it out with someone or saying how you feel is that you’ve created movement. Instead of these feelings festering inside, they’re now swirling about the air between you two. There are choices and options, whereas none existed when you kept your emotions to yourself.
Now, I’m not condoning rage, acting out or hurting someone you love. But we’re human beings. We mess up because we’re messy. Sometimes, the way to turn toward one another is to say all the things that need to be said — maybe even the things you didn’t know you felt.
When we allow our emotions to flow, we change. When we hold them inside, we become like stagnant, algae-infested pools where no sunlight touches the depths.
How do you become more like the clear, rushing, sun-dappled stream? In yogic terms, this means witnessing your emotions with curiosity. Noticing the ones you restrict and the ones you’re willing to share.
Then, relaxing your grip on the things you don’t want to feel, opting for feeling them anyway. Being human isn’t all good. The good and the bad inhabit our lives.
You have the capacity and capability to feel both. Practicing yoga and meditation will help you to keep your heart open so that the next time you reach your tipping point you handle it with more grace.
As Pema Chödrön says, “Fail, fail again, fail better.”
Asana Practice: Crouching Lizard Pose Variation, Utthan Pristhasana
A classic for sweeping out stagnant emotions and tension in the hips, this Lizard Pose variation puts the emphasis on strengthening and stabilizing your arms and core. To better express ourselves in the world, we need posture that will support energy and prana flow throughout the body.
Crouching Lizard Pose is the opportunity to let go of tension, sending it up and out of the limbs, grounding that unwanted emotional energy back into the earth. Optional: Crouching little dog adjustments.
- From Downward Facing Dog, exhale and step your right leg to your right foot in a lunge. Bring your right hand inside the foot and turn the right toes toward the corner of your mat.
- Hug your right inner thigh in and ensure your whole right foot is pressed into the ground. Actively reach through the left heel. Reach your arms wide in front of you and to the sides off the mat. Inhale and lengthen through the spine, exhale and bend the elbows toward the ceiling, drawing shoulder blades together on your back.
- Stay for six to eight deep cycles of breath. Soften the back of the heart down, lengthening your spine, while remaining poised and strong in your legs. Drop the back knee down for a more supported version.
- To come out, walk your hands back under your shoulders, and swing your right leg back into Downward Facing Dog. Pedal out your legs before switching to the other side.