We all experience times of emotional turmoil once in a while. Someone might have wronged us, we feel misjudged or we are in conflict with the views of someone close etc. How can we use Yoga to stay in our centre, detached and calm, able to discern and communicate well, and then successfully move closer to the peaceful and fruitful resolution of a disagreement?

Over time Yoga has taught us to be more in tune with not only our physical, but also our emotional and mental state. When in conflict, the first step we take is to simply recognize that our mind is obsessing about a particular issue; becoming aware that our equilibrium is off kilter.

One of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras gives us advice along the lines of, ‘catch them when they are small’ – like weeding out the weeds, before they flourish. A simple but very valuable piece of advice; as soon as there is disharmony of some sort – communicate and don’t let the issue grow into something big, with the potential to get out of hand and overwhelm us.

From the Yoga Sutras – ancient but very contemporary teachings, which are still amazingly relevant in today’s world – comes yet another sound piece of advice; Provided you have done the best you could to better a situation, and there is no more you can do to resolve the issue, you have to ‘let it go’. As the last section of sutra I.33 states, …“practice indifference toward error”.

‘Easier said than done’ you might think. Correct!

It can be a great challenge to stand one’s ground, to stay calm in a heated discussion, to not get eaten up by disappointment, anger or the wish to retaliate when any attempts to mediate have failed. Ashtanga – the eight limbs of Yoga – provide the necessary tools to master all of the above.

All of us who practice postures, breathing and/or meditation, have had an experience of the wondrous settling of tumultuous emotions, when a deep sense of peace washes over us, ridding us of those negative feelings. Yoga creates clarity of thought, the ability to see things from a distance and to be able to weigh up more wisely. It can open the door to forgiveness, compassion, and understanding, but also courage and strength, or simply ‘letting be’. It is necessary to practice regularly to reach this kind of equilibrium. The mind alone isn’t able to resolve conflict. It is also a physical experience, which needs to accompany the mental understanding, to be able to fully grasp a truth. It is when you feel that something has ‘sunk in’, so to speak.

Together with our posture, breathing and meditation practices, comes a list of observances and codes of behaviour in our social relations with others. After all, Yoga doesn’t prescribe a solitary spiritual existence, but that we learn to relate to the external world healthily.

The foremost of these codes of behaviour is Ahimsa. Rather than aggression or violence, we practice kindness, thoughtful consideration, sensitivity and friendliness. Most interestingly we not only apply these to our actions, but also to the way we think and speak. Having a closer look at our thought patterns, the internal and external conversations we are having during conflict or even when moving through daily life, couldn’t be further away from being kind. The advice given here is not that we can expect feelings of love and generosity to emerge from out of nowhere when one is angered. More appropriately, it is suggested to gradually and consciously turn away from those negative feelings and ‘move in the opposite direction’. Direct one’s thoughts and actions toward a more positive approach to life in general, and its personal challenges.

The same applies to the encouragement to be truthful – Satya. With continuous practice we will be able to communicate well and speak non-harmful and constructive truths. Also Asteya – non stealing – applies in such a way as to not harm someone’s reputation by gossiping. This only creates more upset in our own minds, making it busy with unwanted dialogue.

When I am struggling with strong emotions of anger and upset I always try to remember the beautiful lines of Martin Luther King:

“Darkness can’t dispel darkness, only light can do that.
Hatred can’t dispel hatred, only love can do that”

Set yourself up to always be prepared for a constructive, well-communicated conflict resolution; come and practice, A-PLENTY!

OM Shanti,