What yoga philosophy says about anger

In our Counseling Column, titled Wolf Wisdom, Wolf Terry, a bhakti yoga teacher and writer based in Denver, Colorado, answers your urgent questions about practicing asana, meditation, mantra, and more. In this post she discusses how even spiritual people can get angry at times.

Dear wolf,

During an argument recently, someone asked me, “How can you get so angry when you practice yoga? Isn’t yoga about maintaining inner peace? “Where does this stereotype of” spiritual people get angry “come from and how would you react to it?

Sincerely: Not Mother Teresa

Don’t love mother teresa,

Floating on the interwebs is a popular meme that reads, “It’s funny when people think” yoga people “should be quiet. No, we’re all here because we’re crazy.”

Spiritual people, like all people, get angry. However, social conditioning tells us that expressing emotions other than satisfaction makes other people feel uncomfortable. Even within the yoga community, emotions that show more than just peace, love, gratitude, and joy are often stigmatized.

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I view these perceptions as misinterpretations of the sutras, yamas, and niyamas because they completely overlook the transformational processes necessary to find satisfaction by accepting who you are – the light and the dark.

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In addition, we tend to stick to ideal outcomes and to overcome the practices of reckoning with the five kleshas (mental-emotional ailments). In his book The Path of Yoga Sutras, Nicolai Bachman defines the kleshas as “the emotions or instincts that arise when our buttons are pressed and produce a negative reaction instead of a positive action”.

Kleshas are something that we as yogis have to face on a daily basis if we want to overcome harmful behavior patterns through the lens of Svadhyaya or through self-study. It’s like a close friend held up a mirror to reflect flaws that would otherwise be invisible to us, writes Bachman. When we examine our reactions in Svadhyaya, we explain why we react to certain people and ideas in certain ways, and it helps us research and practice positive action.

Yoga teaches us awareness, and when we are aware of our humanity we can feel more comfortable expressing it. We may be angry, frustrated, or angry because we practice yoga, because we are aware of it. For me, Svadhyaya is always the perfect tool for assessing how to navigate a situation or interaction that takes me to a reactionary place – whether I can handle it in those moments is another matter. I’m sure Mother Teresa had her moments too.

Stay crazy, stay spiritual, keep practicing :: Wolf

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