In yoga, it is believed that emotions are stored in the body.
Anger might translate into a tight shoulder. Emotional suffering might lead to tight hips. Or a tight upper back may represent low self-esteem.
All of these unaddressed emotions reside in the body as tension, and in order to release the tension, the thoughts tied to those emotions have to be released as well. For this reason, I believe there are benefits to letting ourselves think while we practice yoga.
Many yoga practitioners would disagree with this, as they often remind us to “clear our mind” during a yoga practice, but when I do my personal practice, I let my mind run. I’m in a safe place where my mind and body can be vulnerable.
I hold poses, let thoughts rush in, and allow myself to become overwhelmed with my emotions. I let my illogical, emotional mind take full control—and I feel. I feel all the anger from the previous day or the haunting past, and I feel tears inflicted by life’s difficulties and sadness roll down my face. This may seem counterintuitive and somewhat terrifying—we all know how crazy our emotions can be—but at the end of my practice, I feel my body release and my mind calm.
The following is one of many snapshots of my personal practice. It includes my physical feelings and my thought-filled emotions. In order to understand, you’ll have to let yourself feel. And if you begin to feel, you’ll begin to understand yourself.
My heart feels empty—“He doesn’t love me.”
It deflates in my chest—“How is it possible?”
The flutters turn to quivers—“He can’t be gone.”
The air won’t go into my lungs—“I thought he’d always be there.”
I take a breath to stop the tears and calmly remind myself, “The task at hand is the one that should be given the most attention. I am no longer there; I am here.” So, I relax my face in a deliberate effort to unwind my heart, equalize my pulse, and make room in my lungs. I light a candle and unroll my mat. For a brief moment, my mind is clear, and I am able to focus.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana): Come to stand on your knees. Ankles and knees hip-width distance apart. Push the hips forward. Lift up through the spine and place the hands on your lower back. Slowly begin to backbend while drawing the hands to your heels. Open through the shoulders to lift the chest. Relax the neck. Drop your head back.
Blood rushes to my head, and the thoughts race back, “I poured all my love into him. I only wanted to fill him up so the pain would overflow out of him. I smothered him; I accidentally made him leave. Yes, I pushed him away. But I only pushed him away because I wanted to bring him closer! He could only return love when there was a void for it, and he always made sure to create a void. My heart still aches. He stood next to me so many times, staring at anyone but me. I felt the intrigue in his wondering eyes, and I felt the intrigue dissipate as his gaze returned back to me.”
“Release the tension in your neck. Your head is heavy. Let it be empty.” My own voice refocuses my mind:
Camel Pose: Fall deep into the pose. Lengthen your torso by stretching through your pubic bone. Take a breath in. Expand the breath through the chest and into the collar bones. Push the breath into the heart. Unclench the neck.
My present thoughts return, “His ridicule and criticisms flash through my mind whenever I see my own body parts that weren’t good enough to keep his attention. My mind was too simple. My fat was in the wrong places. My heart was too eager. And these, these are only the criticisms I was aware of. I still can’t understand why they caught his attention. I was more beautiful than them, right? I was more charismatic, more fun, right?”
I inch my hips forward to feel a stretch through my thighs. I stop pleading with myself. Focus:
Camel Pose: Lift the pelvis closer to the ribs. Relax the belly.
My thoughts begin to slow, “Somewhere along the line, he became intrigued by every new her, and I grew old and boring. When did it happen? Why did he stop looking at me with kind eyes? How did he grow so cold? I can’t pinpoint any of those moments. I can’t remember when his heart stopped throbbing for me. But I do know that I felt those things, and I do know that I’ve suffered for too long.”
Sitting Pose (Vajrasana): Release. Come to kneel. Close your eyes. Palms facedown on the thighs. Spine straight. Let your arms hang and blood rush out of your head.
My mind begins to clear, “I’ve ignored myself for far too long. It wasn’t right. We weren’t right. I grew up, and he grew curious. Love doesn’t inflict suffering; it should help to soothe it.”
Mountain Pose (Tadasana): Drainage down the sides of the neck. Lengthen. Cold tears. Relax. Open the eyes. Release.
My eyes open, “My heart feels fuller. My heart is stronger. Roll up the mat and let yourself go to bed. That’s enough work for today.”
Author: Kelsey Joan
Image: Daniela Brown/Flickr
Editor: Nicole Cameron