All normal emotions to have at times, but in excess they become a problem. As a yoga teacher and therapist, I am often asked how to work with these difficult emotional states. We often see them clumped together. One way to look at these states is as an excess of Pitta or Fire energy in the system. When this energy is in excess, we experience symptoms. Some of these symptoms are the mentioned emotional states, anger and criticism being the most predominant. Other symptoms might be actual heat (we are hot), digestive issues, or inflammation.
The key to working to get this fire under control is sensitivity. When we stop feeling energy in our body we move out of balance. Unfortunately, the more out of balance we are, the less likely we are to be sensitive. We have all experienced this: think back to a time you were angry at one situation, and then took that anger out on another situation – and then another, etc.
This is why we need to take active steps to re-sensitize ourselves. For those of us who tend to go out of balance in this way (i.e. you are an angry person versus a depressed person), a pitta balancing practice is helpful. There are many levels at which we can effect pitta – I have found that building sensitivity in asana and pranayama particularly useful.
In asana, the key is to move enough to actively feel your heat. There are many ways to do this, but for many, sun salutes are a good choice. The game is to warm ourselves up and then move enough, either through repetition or effort, so that we feel warm in our torso but not in the neck and head. Playing this game will automatically make us more sensitive and train us to feel our heat and then control it. Once we find that fire in an appropriate manner we can then slow it down. After these pitta appropriate sun salutes, we gradually wind down with forward bends and relaxing supine poses like lying twists and legs up the wall. In this way we sensitize, control, and then calm the pitta.
Another possibility is to warm the belly with a modified breath of fire. Again controlling the heat level so that the heat stays in the belly and does not reach the head. This pranayama can be taught by any Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapist.
If you are a yoga class teacher it may be helpful to ponder how intense and heating your class is for your students. Best would be to stoke the fire without imbalancing it. Some students might need modifications in effort level to find the emotional balance they are looking for.
As always I welcome comments and questions,
May all our collective fire be strong and balanced today – Om Shanthi.