As we try to incorporate the yamas and niyamas in our lives and constantly strive for self-improvement, we may encounter difficulties as it requires breaking unhealthy, subconscious patterns of thoughts or actions. These patterns tend to stem from, lead to, or feed negative emotions although we may not always be aware of them. As Mark Manson wrote, “as a general rule, we’re the world’s worst observers of ourselves. When we’re angry, or jealous, or upset, we’re oftentimes the last ones to figure it out.” Therefore, I thought it may be helpful if I share how I try to identify and overcome negative emotions.
Overcoming negative emotions
– Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are experiencing
– Don’t try to resist it
2. Recognise and accept
– Identify what it is that is upsetting you
– What emotion is it? e.g. anxiety, fear, jealousy, sorrow
– Why are you feeling this way?
– Keep asking ‘why’s until you get to the root of it
4. Focus on the present
– Non-identify from these emotions, recognise that just because you experience them, it doesn’t mean that you are them. Emotions come and go, your atman/soul/true self is eternal.
– What can you do about it now?
Non-identification of mind and emotions also relate to the teachings of koshas, which refer to illusory sheaths of ourselves that conceal knowledge of our true self (atman). They comprise of annamaya (food sheath/physical body), pranamaya (energy sheath/life force), manomaya (mind/emotion sheath), vijnamaya (intellect/wisdom sheath) and anandamaya (bliss sheath). In this case, we should focus to non-identify from manomaya and vijnamaya.
Breaking patterns or habits
Once the negative pattern is identified, it may be difficult to break it as they may be long-set habits. It requires time and effort. You may also feel angry, frustrated or impatient with yourself. However, it is unhelpful to beat yourself up over it as it will lead to cycles of negative emotions.
Picture this scenario: guy A has a hot temper and wants to manage it better. One day, he blows his top because he missed the bus. Realising he didn’t manage to control his temper, he gets angry at himself. Then, he gets angry at himself for getting angry.
Therefore, it is important to notice that you feel upset, forgive yourself and try again when you stumble. Remember to be patient towards and love yourself!
All in all, I believe that the purpose of practicing yoga is to enhance our lives. Through philosophical teachings and physical practice (asanas, pranayamas, meditation), it increases our mental and emotional clarity which help us better manage obstacles in life. Therefore, I hope that this post has some value in helping you – whether in your yogic path or just overcoming negative emotions when life gets you down.