I cried on my mat this morning.
It’s not the first time—it won’t be the last.
I have to admit that the first time it happened, I wasn’t quite so nonchalant about it. In fact, I was pretty freaked out. When I finally mentioned it to my teacher, she nodded and smiled, explaining that it happens. Maybe the theme resonated with me that day. Or maybe some energy was being released. Or perhaps a samskara had been tapped into. It didn’t actually matter if I knew exactly the tears were about.
The important thing was that energy was flowing and moving out of my body.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about this new information. I’d started going to yoga to get stronger, more flexible and, honestly, I wouldn’t say no to a yoga butt. Crying in front of a bunch of strangers didn’t fit into the picture.
But when I thought about it, I realized I turned to yoga looking for more than a yoga butt. If that’s all I wanted I could’ve just joined a gym. No, I was looking for something more. I was looking for balance. Some peace of mind. A way to tap into my authentic self, to release old patterns and habits. I had no idea that yoga would actually be able to offer all of that and so much more.
I continued going to class and some days tears would fill my eyes. I tried to just be with it, with whatever sensations and emotions came up, breathing through it all. Although tears might leak down the sides of my face, I was not about to bawl in the middle of yoga class. It would make me uncomfortable as well as those around me. They weren’t there to have a yoga crybaby disturb their practice.
Then came the class. The class where I cried. Right there. In front of everyone. I don’t even remember what the theme was or if it even had anything to do with it.
I do remember tears coming early on in the practice.
I remember being surrounded on either side of me by new friends I’d made through Teacher Training.
I remember that made me feel safe and supported.
I remember tears sliding off my face and onto my mat.
I remember my shoulders shaking as I rested in Child’s Pose, hoping to compose myself.
I remember, at the end of class, my teacher helping me into my first Full Wheel and, as my heart spilled open, arching toward the sky, I sobbed.
It wasn’t silent.
It wasn’t pretty.
It wasn’t private.
It was me, in all my messy, complicated, beautiful humanness being myself.
Afterward, I felt smoothed out somehow. Like something rough that had been snagged in my psyche had been released, leaving me lighter, leaving me more connected to my self.
I also felt seen, without my mask of perceived perfection separating me from myself, from my friends, from my yoga community. I realized that part of why I fought so hard not to cry was this fear of being a burden. I didn’t want to burden others in the room with my tears, my pain, whatever it was that I was going through.
Then I realized that I often live my life that way: afraid of being a burden. After I cried in class and the world didn’t stop spinning, I knew I had, finally, (for the most part) released that particular fear.
Now, when I feel the tears come during my practice, I am no longer freaked out.
Instead, I am curious.
I am compassionate.
And I let them come, knowing that they are there for a reason. Trusting that even though I may not know exactly what it is, something deep inside is no longer needed and by staying present I allow it to be released.
That’s the beauty of yoga.
The beauty of tears on my mat.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo credits: elephant journal archives