Have you lost your temper lately? While the American Psychological Association says that anger is a “normal, usually healthy emotion,” too much anger can cause trouble—physically, socially, and emotionally. From an ayurvedic perspective, says author David Frawley, pitta-type emotions like anger “heat up the blood, liver, and the heart, creating internal fire. They can thereby cause hypertension, insomnia, irritability, and other mental nervous imbalances. They can also burn out the nerves…” Medical studies also show that anger turned inward may also cause high blood pressure or depression.
From an ayurvedic perspective, says author David Frawley, pitta-type emotions like anger “heat up the blood, liver, and the heart, creating internal fire.
One major cause of anger is aggravated pitta (the fiery principle) in the nervous system—even if you don’t have a pitta-dominant constitution. If you feel angry on a regular basis, follow these guidelines: Practice moderation in all of your activities; keep cool; practice relaxation, hatha yoga, and meditation every day; exercise regularly with a non-competitive attitude; make time for leisure activities, spend time in nature, and laugh. Here are a few other tips for cooling anger and restoring emotional balance in your life.
The Anger-Reduction Diet
According to ayurveda, everything we eat has a direct effect on our health, our consciousness, and the balance of our doshas. If you have excess pitta, choose foods with opposite, cooling properties to restore balance.
Yes! Sweet, astringent, bitter, cool, dry, and heavy foods; plenty of vegetarian protein; sweet, juicy fruits, and cool drinks.
No! hot, spicy, oily, salty, or fermented foods; citrus or sour fruits; alcohol or caffeine.
10 pitta-pacifying foods: cilantro, cucumbers, ice cream, ghee, leafy greens, watermelon, raisins, cottage cheese, tofu, basmati rice.
A cooling drink: Ayurvedic expert Dr. Vasant Lad recommends this recipe to reduce anger.
- chamomile-tulsi-rose tea
- 1/8 tsp. chamomile
- 1/8 tsp. tulsi (holy basil)
- 1/4 tsp. rose petal powder
- Steep in one cup of hot water and drink when cool. Drink three times a day after each meal.
Sitali (the hissing breath) is the #1 pranayama technique for soothing a pitta flare-up. It cools the body, adds moisture to the system, calms hunger and thirst, and cultivates a love for solitude.
How-to: Sit in a comfortable position keeping the head, neck, and spine in alignment. Breathe diaphragmatically for several minutes, then open the mouth and form the lips into an O. Curl the tongue lengthwise and project it out of the mouth (about 3/4 of an inch). Make a hissing sound as you inhale deeply across the tongue and into the mouth as if drinking through a straw, letting the abdomen and rib cage expand. Then withdraw the tongue and close the mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils. Continue this practice for 2 to 3 minutes, return to diaphragmatic breathing for several more, and then repeat the hissing breath for 2 to 3 minutes longer.
Note: Sitali is most helpful during hot weather. It may not be appropriate during the winter, especially if you have a vata or kapha constitution. If you’re doing this practice in cold weather, be sure to take in air that is close to body temperature since the breath won’t be warmed by the nostrils. If the air is shockingly cold, it may aggravate the lungs.
3 Oiling Techniques
Nightly massage: Dr. Lad recommends rubbing bhringaraj oil or coconut oil on your scalp and the soles of your feet every night before bed. Sleep in an old pair of socks and a hat to prevent the oil from staining the bedding, and shower in the morning. This oil massage penetrates the seven layers of skin, reduces stress, balances the pitta and vata doshas, and encourages sound sleep.
Essential oils: Place a drop of sandalwood essential oil between your eyebrows, on the throat, breastbone, navel, temples, and wrists to balance your emotions. Flower fragrances like rose, jasmine, and lilac will help, too.
Ghee nasya: Dr. Lad advises angry people to lubricate the inside of their nostrils with some brahmi ghee or plain ghee, “then gently inhale the ghee upward. This sends a calming message to the brain. You will become quite tranquil, and anger and hostility will dissolve like a cloud in the sky.”
Former Yoga International editor-in-chief Shannon Sexton writes about food, travel, yoga, and natural health.