“Anger is a poison you take hoping the other person will die.”
That one statement by itself has done more to help me let go of my anger than just about any other. I was listening to a podcast by famous yoga instructor Sean Corne when I heard it. As soon as she said it, it was like I finally realized holding on to all the resentments I had really wasn’t doing me any good.
When we get angry, especially at someone we love or trust, our brain gets all kinds of signals from the primitive flight or fight response in our body. Those signals are stored in our memory, and each time we dredge up those memories, the same angry hormones – poisons – are sent through our body again. That’s why we can still get angry about something that happened years ago.
Even if it’s a daily annoyance type of anger, such as a frustrating call to customer service, disobedient children or a boss who asks too much but gives too little, the body sensors are alerted in the same way. The body and mind are put into a stress mode and nerves and hormones are activated.
But who is being poisoned by the anger? No one but ourselves. The bodies flight or fight response can’t distinguish between a lover who has betrayed you versus traffic on your way to work.
But through yoga I’ve learned that I can make the conscious decision to not poison my body and find ways to let anger go.
Here is a great exercise to let go of long-term anger and hurts. Take a piece of paper and write down the names of everyone who has ever hurt you, betrayed you and angered you in any way. There is no statue of limitations on how far back in your history you can go. In fact, you may be surprised how many negative memories you can bring up once you get started.
Take as long as you need and as much paper as you need. Don’t worry about writing out what the hurtful situation was, just the name is enough. When you are ready, fold the paper in half four times.
Now rip it in half. Rip it again. And again. And again. And again until your have lots of tiny pieces of paper in front of you. Now take all those tiny pieces of paper, throw them in the air, blast some music and begin dancing as the papers fall around you. Keep dancing and dancing until you have released the poison.
You can’t be angry when you are dancing.
But why wait until we have a long list of anger and resentment? Next time we feel those stress hormones rising, we can stop them with a simple, albeit silly looking breathing exercise called Lions Breath.
Sitting on your knees, hands on your lap, take a big breath in. Sit up tall, and stick out your tongue, open your eyes real wide and release the negativity through a roar of an exhale. Do Lions Breath at least three times, or as many as you need.
Just as we can’t be angry while dancing, we sure can’t stay mad while sticking out our tongue and roaring like a lion.