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Dissolving Family-Related Anger with Yoga

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Charissa Loftis

Dissolving Family-Related Anger with Yoga

Calm and Free by Rockwell Kent

“I.33 By cultivating an attitude of friendship toward those who are happy, compassion toward those in distress, joy toward those who are virtuous, and equanimity toward those who are non-virtuous, lucidity arises in the mind. “—from
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translated by Edwin Bryant

The last time I wrote for Yoga For Healthy Aging in my post Three Steps for Working with Anger, I shared my experience of using yoga and Tara Brach’s RAIN method for dealing with anger caused by family interactions. At the time, I wrote that I was in the early stages of working with the anger. Now I am happy to share that yoga has helped me dissolve most of my family-related anger. Some time ago I started using a combination of yoga asana and Brach’s RAIN method to get to a point where I could even begin to look at the anger and get a broader perspective on the situation. For a long time, when anger with my family boiled up, I would get still, use gentle yoga to dissipate uncomfortable physical sensations associated with these strong emotions, and work through the steps of RAIN to process those feelings (see details of my practice at Three Steps for Working with Anger). Eventually, after lots and lots of yoga and many rounds of RAIN, I could see that the anger boiling up was usually not a response to the current situation, but rather my family’s long-held patterns of interacting with one another.Over time, through my yoga practice and the process of RAIN, I had developed a sense of compassion for myself. Rather than berate myself for falling into the pattern and getting angry again, I could start to hold that anger and myself with acceptance and compassion (karuna). Once I could hold myself with compassion, I was ready to hold my family members with that same sense of acceptance and compassion. Then through my yoga training, I had the opportunity to meet a number of colleagues who were working with veterans. Conversations with them about their work helped me understand that in the early years of my family’s history, my father (a Vietnam War vet) was suffering terribly. At that time, the rest of the family could not understand his trauma, and our response to his trauma symptoms, while understandable, only contributed to his suffering. This shift in awareness—my ability to view him as a person whose behavior was a result of suffering—created a palpable softening of the long-held patterns of tension and anger. The compassion that I developed through yoga and RAIN left me open to seeing my family situation from a new perspective. While those early years were very difficult, I could now see that we were all doing the best we could, at that time, with what we had. I could see how the patterns of behavior between us had developed back then; Dad’s suffering caused him to act out, we responded with anger, and the pattern repeated. This new perspective, in addition to the compassion that I had cultivated, left me open and willing to take advantage of life changes that left me with extra time in my calendar. So, since March my parents and I have been meeting weekly via FaceTime for yoga therapy sessions. These sessions fulfill many needs for all of us. I am working on my yoga therapy certification and the sessions give me an opportunity to practice working with yoga therapy tools that I was reluctant to offer in drop-in group yoga classes. While I didn’t have anything to offer my dad when I was young, I now have yoga therapy tools that are helpful to him now (he has COPD). The sessions also allow me the opportunity to spend quality time with my parents as they age. In return my parents get much needed yoga therapy to help address medical concerns. Both my parents and I have been dedicated to the sessions, rarely letting anything come in the way of the appointments. My parents have also been open to receiving what I have to offer, including mudras, chanting, pranayama, and meditation. We usually get several hearty laughs out of each session as well, which also helps change our long-held patterns of interacting with each other. All of this has added up to more time spent with my parents and, more importantly, time that’s more enjoyable. We still get annoyed with each other (it is election season after all), but now there’s no anger behind these interactions. I am grateful to the tools that RAIN and my yoga practice and training have provided for laying the groundwork needed to facilitate these changes. It didn’t change overnight—in fact it took several years to work through it—but here we are enjoying time with one another and it has been worth the effort.

Dissolving Family-Related Anger with Yoga
Charissa Loftis has an MA in Library Science and earned her RYT200 in 2015 from Yoga Now (then Omaha Yoga and Bodywork Center) with Susi Amendola. She received her RYT500 from Integrative Yoga Therapy with Joseph LePage, and is nearly finished with her yoga therapy certification through Kripalu. She is grateful to offer those teachings to a wide variety of people in the rural Nebraska community that she lives in. Charissa found yoga as a graduate student and continues to practice and teach because it makes her feel better. Subscribe to Yoga for Healthy Aging by Email ° Follow Yoga for Healthy Aging on Facebook ° To order Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being, go to AmazonShambhalaIndie Bound or your local bookstore.

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