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“Don’t let anyone make you angry,” one Bikram teacher used to say. “Don’t let anyone piss you off. If they do, you lose.”
I remember thinking at the time, “But what if I CAN’T HELP getting angry? Then what?” Does getting angry make me a bad yogi? A bad yoga teacher? A bad person? I’ve thought about it a a lot and I don’t think that anger is a sign we’ve failed. What the teacher meant, I believe, is that we should not let anger control our behaviour.

Anger is an emotion, like elation, sadness, uncertainty or fear. We can’t control a fleeting emotion; what we can control is how we react. What yoga teaches us is that sensations are temporary. All sorts of emotions arise in the studio as struggle, breathe, pull, push, and stretch. We can feel impatient, annoyed, angry, tired, confused, hopeful, desperate, distracted, or ecstatic. Then we move to the next posture, the moment passes and we feel something else.

The beauty of yoga is that by training our body we can train our mind. So instead of reacting to the emotion of anger with angry words or angry actions, we can observe the emotion, breathe, and wait for the moment to pass.

It is unrealistic to expect to never be upset, aggravated or downright pissed off. But we can develop the wisdom to accept these feelings for what they are and choose to act in a kind, gracious manner.

How does yoga influence your emotions? Share in the comments.