yoga blog by yoga lover in Bicester


on February 15, 2018

I’ve been leading a mindfulness course and in one of the sessions we had a discussion about anger.  One of the course participants found it difficult to understand my perspective that, whilst it is OK to feel anger, we need to consider skilful ways to respond to those feelings rather than to explode.

So this has made me reflect on how I can explain the concept more simply and I share my thoughts with you:

Anger is a powerful emotion.  We feel it physically and it can galvanise us to take action.  What we are probably less aware of is that anger is generally the result of a build up of ‘little niggles’ that accumulate and finally erupt in what we term anger.  This eruption can often be misjudged and cause distress to others (our ourselves).  So what can we do to avoid this?

Firstly, let’s look at what happens physiologically when we feel anger.  Anger is a form of stress response.  So the amygdala in the brain fires up and triggers the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline – i.e. the fight, flight or freeze response.  We may feel muscles tightening, our heart rate pumping, our breath may be faster and shallower, we become totally focused on the recipient of our anger. When this happens repeatedly (the little niggles that we are perhaps less aware of), our body is repeatedly subjected to these hormones which can have a ‘toxic’ effect – headaches, tummy upsets, neck and shoulder pain, frequent coughs and colds (immune system affected). In the words of the Buddha “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone – you are the one that gets burned”.

In mindfulness we learn to pay careful attention to the present moment.  To really be aware of what we are thinking, feeling and sensing – which is so different to our usual ‘being busy’ and being unaware of the chatter of our minds.  This applies not just when on our yoga mats, but throughout our daily lives.  This frequent ‘checking in’ can be a powerful way of diffusing tensions, taking us off the hair trigger so that we don’t feel the need to erupt.  We in effect learn to respond rather than react.  During these ‘check ins’ we may notice an angry thought.  We don’t try to push it away – we notice instead how what we feel in our bodies.  And this change from thought to sensation can be a powerful tool to dissipate the thought (and emotion).  We in effect allow the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and release the ‘feel good’ hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin.

By bringing frequent episodes of mindfulness into our daily lives – not just restricting it to a formal seated meditation practice, we can really change our perspective on life and live in a far more peaceful way.  “Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing our awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations which may be used as a therapeutic technique”. (Mark Williams & Danny Penman : Finding Peace in a Frantic World).


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