It’s true that yoga practice can bring instant relief to some of our emotions. Most people expect that by the time they finish a yoga class they will be walking out feeling relaxed and centred. When sometimes it can do the complete opposite.
When I was living in Ireland I remember a boyfriend of mine once spent an hour doing backbend practice, and when he came home he couldn’t help but break down and cry. He didn’t know what to do with himself and couldn’t get past feeling so overwhelmed. Sometimes we forget to consider that the yoga practice isn’t just there to balance our minds, it’s also there to unearth deep-seated issues within us.
So my question is, have you come across this before and, if so, how have you dealt with it?
It’s normal to pick up these intense emotions and feelings on the yoga mat.
But when you get moved by these emotions what is really happening to you?
- Do you feel disconnected to your yoga practice?
- Do you feel that your yoga practice is still sufficient?
- And more importantly, what do you do when you feel this trigger coming on?
Confiding in your teacher is an easy answer, because your yoga teacher is somebody who is there to guide you through your practice – no matter what kind of beast is unleashed! Some students may think that this kind of reaction is more of a psychological issue and that we shouldn’t talk about emotions because yoga is not meant for these things. But honestly, yoga is meant to do all of this (and more!) and it’s important for us as human beings to be able to voice our feelings.
It can be difficult to see this, as yoga has become somewhat of a consistent routine, like going to church.
I know a lot of studios that hold 30+ spaces and cater to those people who just want to run through their practice with a big crowd of people. Now, practicing in this way can certainly help you to focus on yourself. If you’re in a large crowd, you might find that you have to manage your own practice, as the teacher isn’t always available to come around. But on the other hand, if you’re just “running to church”, do you really trust that the system is working for you? Are you gaining the true benefits of yoga? Can you really surrender your emotions and feelings to the bigger picture, or do you feel like you’re just ticking boxes?
To me, as a long-term practitioner of 30 years, the first thing that needs to happen in a good yoga practice is to acknowledge our emotions. Whether these emotions are triggered by holding a pose for a long period of time or through intense repetition of the same motion, the key is to acknowledge what is happening, and that it goes beyond the feeling of exhaustion or an internal ‘fire’.
Then once you have recognised these emotions, it’s important to allow yourself to feel them and experience this small journey. Think about where they have come from and why they are breaking into your life now. Even beyond emotions, we should learn to observe and feel all activity more clearly on the yoga mat. And then the best part, which is an important takeaway of yoga, is to become less attached to these emotions. It’s one thing to acknowledge and experience these emotions, but then also to let them go.
Some of the reoccuring intense emotions that come up have sometimes been passed down by our ancestors, or maybe it’s coming from a conversation we haven’t quite digested yet. If you don’t want to seek refuge in your teacher, then take the time to digest what has happened and maybe look into some wise texts, such as spiritual poetry by Rumi, the fables of The Prophet or the journey of yogi manmoyanand.
But don’t leave this on the mat.
If you just carry on and go to work or school, you won’t ever really be present. If you push these feelings to the back, then they might just pop up later and the beast will rear its ugly head again.