March 16, 2012

The Yoga of Emotions. ~ Don O’Brien

As yogis, you already know how to deal with emotions.

You already go through the process by cutting through your distractions and physical limitations. This involves awareness, non-judgment, and acceptance.


Awareness is about being present to your physical, mental and emotional input, as well as your state of being. We have physical sensations: hot, cold, hard, soft, pressure and gravity on our body parts, and our minds are busy thinking thoughts: agendas, ruminating over past episodes, conjuring up future scenarios, and the emotions contribute their fair share: love, anger, sadness, envy. There is no doing; it is only about observing and being present.


We spend so much of our time trying to justify whether life is right or wrong. Life is neither right nor wrong; it just happens. I am amazed at how much of people’s time and energy is devoted to this recycling activity, “It is not supposed to be that way; it is supposed to be this (some other) way.” People are often invested in the way things should be, but life just is; it just happens the way it does. It is neither good nor bad.

Rumi refers to that field out there beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing. It is a place of non-judgment, non-duality and fullness.


Now that we are aware of numerous inputs into our minds and bodies, and do not qualify them as right or wrong, good or bad, we can fully open up to them and accept them just as they are. They do not require change. This allows us the freedom to choose whether to let a particular item go, or whether to take it on and work to change it. We are not compelled to change it. With every breath, we have a choice.


I like to think of emotions as a stream of water flowing over my open hand. I am aware of the water flowing over my skin: I feel its wetness, its temperature, its softness and I allow it to wash over me; I do not hold onto it. I fully experience the movement of the water over my hand; and I allow it to pass over me.

“Be melting snow. Wash yourself of yourself.” -Rumi

“A white flower grows in the quietness. Let your tongue become that flower.” -Translated by Coleman Barks               

Within the quietness of acceptance, I experience the freedom of my own self expression.


So let us now look at a posture as a metaphor for this process: Virabhadrasana II, Warrior’s Pose II. I move into the asana, focus on alignment, posture, I notice my right foot, ankle, leg, my left foot, ankle, leg, the opening of the hips, the pelvic girdle, my core, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, neck, head, eyes and now I soften and loosen the jaw, relax the palette, the brow and the diaphragm. Stillness.  Equanimity.

I am aware of the physical stresses and pressures and limitations within my body. They are neither right nor wrong, neither good nor bad; they just are. I am not trying to be like someone else in the room, or for that matter, the way I was yesterday. I am fully present to the way my body is now, and I accept it just the way it is. In my acceptance, I release excess tension and soften areas of holding tension. And now I am free to choose: shall I maintain the posture as is, shall I stretch myself a little further, or shall I back off?

The process with the thoughts and the emotions are similar. I am aware of their presence. They are neither good nor bad, neither right nor wrong. I accept them as they are. I allow them to pass over and through me. I am at witness consciousness. I am in a state of being, rather than doing.

As we move through our daily lives, we are surrounded by a whirlwind of activities and stimuli: physical, mental, and emotional. By means of this same process, awareness, non-judgment, and acceptance, we can experience freedom and well-being.


So you have accepted the emotional feeling and in the freedom of choice wish to move it, transform it. How does one do that? Let us again look at your yoga practice. If you wish to move or transform a tension in your body, after fully accepting it as it is, you can bring energy to it through breath and movement. You can consult with peers and/or professionals.

Likewise, if you wish to move or transform an emotion, you can energize and transform it through breath-consciously being with the emotion and breathing. You can accelerate the process through breath work as it can move you faster and deeper. You can also locate within your body that part which is most sensitized from the emotion; then breathe into that space, or transform it through movement. Confiding with peers and/or professionals in a safe environment is also very effective, as is artistic expression.

Don O’Brien has studied yoga since 1974, and recently spent a month studying with Peetambar Mishra at Yoga Mandir in Varanasi, India. He also spent more than 5 years with Swami Muktananda. He currently resides in Bend, Oregon, where he recently designed and built his own house. He is a practicing Life Coach and can be reached via email.




Prepared by Soumyajeet Chattaraj/Edited by Tanya L. Markul

Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook.

Read 3 Comments and Reply

Read 3 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Elephant Journal  |  Contribution: 1,510,285