I remember one of my first yoga classes, when I had just taken it up again. I was one of those gals that was religious about my practice for about a week. Then I would come back in a month for two weeks, take off for two months then come back again. Now I'm a lifer.
This one time back, it was right after I had of very bad car accident, not my fault, that had totaled my car and rendered me injured and off any kind of exercise except for walking to work 'cause I had no car.
When I was feeling healthy again, I decided to take a class. By the end of class, when we got into final resting pose or Sivasana, a wave of emotion had come over me and the flood gates opened. I'm not a crier by nature. I got it all out in my youth in the form of temper tantrums outside of the bathroom while my mother was trying to have alone time. That woman is a saint.
Whatever we had physically opened up in class, welled up inside and needed to be let go. For me, it was not the most appropriate time. I wish, if tears were gonna come, they would arrive when I'm in the safety of my own home whilst in the company of Ben and Jerry. Nonetheless, it had to come out somehow and like my mom always says, "Better out than a poor man's eye." I don't know either. I think she just got that from her mom. So, it was quiet, still and I'm just lying there, balling.
I tried not to release any wimpers as to notify the other students that I was outwardly emotional. How embarrassing, mortifying. I just held my breath until I felt pressure on my chest and let the tears gather in the pockets of my ears. All I felt was a heavier sense of sadness and an undoing feeling that my whole hour and a half practice was for naught.
I gathered my belongings and jetted out of there.
Then it happened again.
The following week, I had come to class and we got to Sivasana. Within a minute, the waterworks were on. I didn't want to feel that pressure again. I didn't want to hold it in. So, I just let it go. It wasn't nearly as noisy as I thought it would be and nothing to be scared of. I just started to focus on my breath. I took long, slow inhales through my nose and even slower exhales out my mouth. I continued until I began to feel a sense of 'there, there' stroking on my head. Figuratively speaking.
Calmness replaced pain and I knew I would have to keep returning to yoga in order to heal.
Well, after years of teaching in the studio, I'm here to say that crying or getting emotional within a pose is a completely natural process of letting go. And it is what yoga is all about.
When we are in class, we're not just moving our body in odd ways to tone the thighs. There's a method to the sequencing of a class and a method of opening up on the outside so we can get to open up and discover what's going on inside.
It's like a story, in your body, that unfolds in chapters. When you come to class, you might know exactly how you are feeling. You are excited to start moving and turning the pages. You don't know what's coming next (unless you are in an Ashtanga or Bikram class) and you are elated to find out. Sometimes the story takes twists and turns you never expected. Never judge a book by the cover. That fight with your dad or that strange altercation with that lady at the place or the pain of a breakup or the fear that you can't pay the rent, live your dreams, find true love, might come to the surface and startle you. Emotions come up in all forms on the mat. Anger, frustration, fear, tension, disappointment, elation, joy, surrender, serenity, bliss, calm, sadness. It's not always easy to tell on the surface, but acknowledging it for yourself is the most important thing. Don't let the ego get in the way. Don't judge how you are feeling. Let yourself feel the emotion and work its way through the body.
Like emotional digestion. The last thing you want to do is keep it in and become emotionally constipated. It's going to have to come out somehow and somewhere and the yoga room is very much the most appropriate place to heal and let go.
We don't want you leaving the studio with your emotions and taking it out on yourself or others in a harmful way so let it work through you in the safest, soundest place.
If, however, the emotion or ego does take you over and you get too inside your head about it, simply excuse yourself from the room, take a moment and come back if you can. If you are so overtaken and need to leave all together, I'd encourage you to take some moments before going back into your life to reflect on where the emotion is coming from so you can identify it and work through it in the way you need whether its venting to a friend, talking to a therapist or writing it down.
Your mind has an unbelievable memory. We can remember childhood, our prom, that day at camp when you laughed so hard chocolate milk came out your nose, our friends, our weddings and the the big break up. Our body, is the same way. It holds on, physically, to emotions, experiences and thoughts. Some are good and we don't mind holding on to 'em, like the chocolate milk incident. Still makes me laugh. But, it's impossible to hold on to everything and certainly if an experience is toxic, it absolutely needs to be freed. Sometimes it might take weeks, months or even years for it to come to the surface. But what a thing to witness. One's capacity to feel is so natural and beautiful. Whatever the emotion, it reminds us how human and alive and in turn, how connected we all are. We all do it.
I admire those students that have the courage to let themselves go through an emotion and not cling to it. It's the only way to move on, heal and uncover more of they're inner light to shine.
Tune in to the emotion that is coming up and allow it to softly exit the body. You no longer need it for yourself. This is the body and mind telling you it doesn't want it. So don't hold on, letter' rip! Set yourself free.