“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” --Buddha
Anger is one of those powerful emotions that tends to color everything in a person's experience -- it's like looking at the world through anything but rose-colored glasses. I've had my share of angry episodes, so I've seen firsthand how anger can overwhelm you and inform every action you make. Yet seeing how destructive it can be really hit me a few months ago.
I was catching up with a friend that I haven't seen in quite some time. She'd been going through a rough time for the past year. Her frustration over her marriage and her professional life had been building for well over a year. As she ranted about what was happening in her life and why everyone in it was causing her frustration, I listened worried that one day all this anger would harm her health. She was already suffering from a variety of physical symptoms that I would bet a chai latte with soy milk was due to her emotional stress.
We were joined by a friend who shared a story about another person being taken advantage of by an acquaintance who ended up on the bad end of the karma train. My very angry friend rushed to condemn the person in the story -- who she doesn't know -- who committed the injustice. I was taken aback by the hate in her voice, especially considering she didn't even know the people in the story. It made me so very sad to see how the anger overflowing in my friend was morphing her into someone that I didn't even recognize. Not only was she harming herself, but she was harming those around her, including her 3 children.
Luckily there are more constructive ways to deal with anger -- yoga and breathing for example. Here are a few practices to help you diffuse anger and prevent yourself from ending up overwhelmed by it:
Dragon Breath -- inhale in four parts (4 sniffs) through the mouth and exhale letting the breath fall out of the mouth with the mouth open, tongue stuck out. On the exhale stick the tongue out as far as you can and open your eyes as wide as you can. Continue this breath for 1-3 minutes.
Get physical -- one of my favorite physical practices for ridding yourself of anger comes from Kundalini yoga. Sit on your heels (put a prop between your lower legs and bottom if this position is uncomfortable for you). Chant HAR (as loudly as you need to -- I like to really belt it out) as you hit your palms on the floor in front of your knees. Go at a quick pace (one HAR per second) -- hitting your hands on the ground with each HAR (you can modify this by doing this while sitting at a desk and hitting your hands on the desk or standing close to a wall and hitting your hands on the wall). Practice for 3 minutes.