Did you ever start crying uncontrollably during a Yoga class?!
I did. It happened to me during my first yoga class, in New York city about 10 years ago… If I remember well, it was almost at the end of the class. The big room was crowded, full of young dancers from the Broadway Dance Center, and we were performing Ustrasana, Camel Pose, which is an intense backbend. I started to feel like crying… and I was really struggling; it was very hard to finish the class without exploding! As the teacher said ‘Namaste’, I was running with my stuff outside and just cried uncontrollably, walking in the snow of the giant streets, for at least 2 hours… until I felt a feeling of relief, peace and emptiness.
I didn’t understand what happened to me that time, it was so powerful, so surprising and so intense, all at the same time! Yoga wasn’t part of my life just yet, but I knew that one day, I would explore Yoga more deeply and just felt it will be a part of my life. And I did. Now, once in a while, tears roll down my cheeks during my asana practice, and I know now that everything is fine … 🙂
The question is : ‘Why does Yoga make you cry?!’
Actually, it is quiet common to cry during or after an asana or meditation. Certain asanas are more likely to make the tears come rolling down, like: intense hip openers, backbends, as well as gentle or restorative poses.
We know that the mind-body connection is profound and that the mental state affects the physical state and vice-versa.
Since yoga asanas establishe integrity in the spine, release blocked energetic centres, and free your stiff connective tissues, it is natural that these physical shifts lead to emotional shifts too. Yoga is particularly challenging for the nervous system, as a result emotional shifts can occur at a higher level than with other activities.
Seven Tips on How to Handle those Tears 🙂
* Let’s embrace our emotions
As it is a natural process for emotions to arise during or after a Yoga or Meditation class, we don’t have to suppress them, rather allow them to be. The ancient sages already acknowledged the emotional context of Yoga and offered many practices for bringing understanding and balance.
Just as Yoga invigorates every aspect of the physical body, it helps you investigate the working of the mind and its expression in emotions. An intentional and intelligent practice of Yoga can reunite all parts of you, your experiences, your memories and your essence. Yoga so effectively works on the person that hidden emotions are brought to the surface and surface emotions are examined with new insights. The key is to relate to all physical and emotional sensations as they arise and treat them without judgement, but equanimity and acceptance.
One reason why you can be particularly sensitive to emotions while doing yoga or meditating is because you have set this personal time for yourself. By nature, even in rigorous physical sequences, yoga is an integrated practice with no distinction between body, mind, and spirit.
In normal daily life you usually feel when you start to become irritated, worried or happy. Emotions can also seem brewing beneath the surface, and suddenly bubble up from a deep reservoir of past experiences. These are known as Samskaras, impressions from emotional or physical traumas, memories, unconscious held tensions or imprints left behind by daily experience.
The few minutes of relaxation at the beginning of a class are designed specifically to calm agitating emotions. It is also the perfect moment to scan your body and mind to acknowledge an emotional state or mood. Just as quality of attention is crucial to physical movement in yoga , quality of attention bring insight, harmony and psychological balance to consistent practice. The slow, intentional movement of posture allows the mind to track sensations and learn to be present to all kinds of feelings. By concentrating on the body, you expand your ability to concentrate on the feeling. When the movement become vigorous, it is even more important to focus on internal sensations.
Emotions manifest themselves through breath. Once you have acknowledged this and pay attention it is very obvious: When you feel upset, you may hold the breath, breath rapidly or have shorter breaths.
The breath is the bridge between the physical and the subtle. Carl Jung, the famous psychologist was fascinated by many aspects of yoga. In his book ‘The psychology of Kundalini Yoga’, he says: ‘At the diaphragm you cross the threshold from the visible tangible things to the almost invisible intangible things. And these intangible things in anahata (the heart chakra) are the physical things, for this is the region of what is called feeling and mind.’
The first yogic antidote to agitation is to breathe. Breath can initiate change and bring about a centred, calm mind. It generates movement, shifts energy and allows more ease in the natural flow of arising and subsiding energy and emotion. Any time you are agitated or filled with any intense emotion, take several deep breaths and observe the results. In the full yogic breath, the breath is open, relaxed, free. The lungs, diaphragm, and muscles are not constricted. With every full deep breath, you have the ability to release tension. Long, steady, deep breaths come with feeling of relaxation and contentment.
* Express your Emotion
Sometimes you can attribute emotions to a specific personal situation. Or you can identify the source to provide understanding and allow an intense emotion to subside.
Another method is to say what the feeling is. In his book on meditation, ‘Happy for no good reason’, Swami Shankarnanda says: ‘A statement like ‘I am angry’ or ‘I am scared’, already has a great deal of truth-value. Often we don’t know or will not admit how we feel. Instead we allow negativity to become the fuel that spins a web of deluded thoughts. When we make an accurate statement like ‘I am angry’ or ‘I am scared’, it cuts through the illusion and brings us to the present. It is a reality check. Present feeling is always valid and puts us in touch with what is real, while thoughts can lead us away.’
If you can’t identify a specific emotion, you can substitute a general statement,such as ‘I feel emotional’, or ‘I am upset’. By saying what your feeling is, you put the focus back on you rather than the emotion.
What happens when you put the focus on yourself in the present moment? You shift your awareness away from the mind, which might be rambling, criticizing, commenting or fueling the emotion. As you focus internally on a complete state of being , physical as well as in the mind, you move into the awareness of your own creation.
* Raga & Dvesha: Drop both disliking and liking
In the Yoga Sutras, written by Patanjali more than fifteen hundred years ago, one recommendation is to work with an essential tendency of the mind: the impulse to comment, I like, I dislike, which can escalate into more intense emotion.
It says: “Attraction that accompanies pleasure is raga. Aversion that accompanies pain is Dvesha.”
Translate raga (attraction) into ‘i like’ ,and dvesha (aversion) into ‘i dislike’. You can apply this as you do any series of postures.
For example, in a stretch, your muscles might resist at first and you say ‘i don’t like how its feels’, then as you relax into the posture, the muscles relax and you may respond: ‘i like this sensations’. The key is to resist the temptation to value the feeling, wether physical or emotional, that one is ‘bad’, while another is ‘good’. When you drop judgments about feeling, you open up the possibility of allowing feelings to arise for any reason. Judgments themselves create resistance: “i shouldn’t feel this way. I don’t want them to see me cry. Yoga is supposed to be calming. Why do i feel so angry ?”
It helps to trust and accept your own feelings, whatever they may be.
Simply bringing awareness counteracts tension. When you give permission to get to know what your emotions are and how they feel, you are in a state of forgiveness and acceptance. The result is a positive influence on biochemistry and an improvement in overall condition of health. Balance has a deep restorative impact on the entire system.
Yoga Asanas are designed not only for physical health but also for spiritual transformation. The practice of yoga binds together the separate aspects of countless thoughts, fluctuating emotions, and sensory experiences. As you deepen your practice, you deepen your experience of your strengths within.
Patanjali says: “When the mind is disturbed by improper thoughts, constant pondering over the opposites is the remedy”
Contemplate plenitude to counteract jealously (desire)
Contemplate serenity to calm irritation
Contemplate strength to overcome powerless feeling
To shift the feeling physically, try Yoga postures that stimulate the opposite of how you feel.
~Virabhadrasana, Warrior Pose: to develop courage (opposite of fear)
~Vrksasana, Tree Pose: for harmony (opposite of imbalance)
~Surya Namaskar, Sun Salutation: for energy (opposite of laziness & depression)
~Trikonasana, Triangle Pose: for openness (opposite of being judgmental, stubborn)
~Simhasana, Lion Pose: for honesty (opposite of resistance to speak)
~Navasana, Boat Pose: for strength (opposite of melancholy, self-pity)
~Siddhasana, Seated Pose: for stability (opposite of restless, nervousness)
~Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward facing Dog: for submission (opposite of anger)
~Bhujangasana, Cobra Pose: for determination (opposite of worry)
~Viparita Karani, Legs-up-to-wall: for acceptance, relief (opposite of outrage, exasperation)
Everyone starts from where she is. Everyone can explore how the body, animated by Yoga movement, holds and releases emotion. Everyone can experience how the body has a role in serving our inherent need for harmony.
“A yogi attains freedom from the effects of all passions. Even if such emotions appear in a yogi, these cannot touch his inner self shining beyond all diversity of mental and physical existence.” ~ Abhinavagupta.