A few years back, I had my first surprise initiation – crying while doing yoga. (Read all about my first crying experience HERE). And surprisingly, looking at the date of that post, it happened also on a January – 3 years ago! What is it with January???
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Tonight I was really feeling the need to do yoga and so I unfurled my yoga mat onto the floor and, even if I was a bit tired after a whole afternoon of long overdue errands, began my home practice. I went through my sun salutations, then progressed to balancing poses. As I began doing Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Garudasana (Eagle Pose), my tears just started flowing and my vision actually clouded with so many tears coming out. It was a surprise that despite very poor visibility through the tears, I was still able to maintain my balance as I did the poses and held them for a long time. The tears just continued flowing, and I let them, as I went through twists, inversions and finally, Savasana (Corpse Pose). My mat was wet tonight, but not with the usual sweat that goes with my practice.
Sarah Powers, in an article in Yoga Journal, explained crying during yoga as follows:
During a yoga session, as we stretch and strengthen our muscles, organs, joints, and bones, we release blocked or stagnant energy–both physical/energetic and emotional. The body’s energy is in constant motion, but through habitual protection, unaware living, trauma, or disposition, this constant flow stagnates in certain areas of the body. Without a practice to supplement this deficiency of flowing vital energy, we can end up physically sick or become closed off to deeper feeling tones, leaving us unable to access the immediacy of life in its moments.
In addition to the physical and energetic impact of yoga practice, it is also an awareness discipline that is not merely focused on moving the body with a physical goal in mind as in sports, dance, or calisthenics. Our willfulness when playing sports may override our emotions, but in yoga asana we have a precious opportunity to welcome in all states, uncensored and free of expectations or analysis. For this reason, you may notice a release of emotional energy seemingly unrelated to the specific moment at hand. As you become mindful of your emotions, you will be able to include a broader range of feeling states to be metabolized as they are happening, which is called spontaneous mindfulness.
Over the Christmas holidays, I got sick. Pretty bad. It started out as an allergic reaction to the pollen from our mango tree’s flowers. But my resistance had gone down also tending to two family members who were sick and eventually, I got the flu which lingered till end of December. My lungs, already weak from the flu, also succumbed to asthma, something I had not experienced in over 10 years.
I’m recovering now from the asthma and the lethargy brought about by one illness after another. But I know that my illness was not just a physical manifestation. For some time now, I have been undergoing some stress and it’s not something I want to dwell on here. Suffice it to say, this stress has been quite emotional for me and believing that mind, body and spirit are all connected, I know that my illness was a physical manifestation of the emotional stress that had been building up. And unknown to me, this very stress was also tightening up parts of my body. Catching the “bug” at home was just the tailend effect of it all.
But when I resumed yoga this new year, the poses began opening up those areas in my body that had tightened up with stress. Tonight was just the 4th yoga practice that I’ve done in 2011. And yet, here is where yoga’s benefits kicked in, not on the physical side, but on the emotional side. It released whatever negative energy was trapped in my body. It was my stress reliever.
I know that while I am undergoing stress conditions not always under my control, regular yoga practice will give me some balance and an outlet for any build-up of negative energy and emotions. We really are not aware that stress is a “killer” if we don’t do anything about releasing it. The word ‘psychosomatic’ really takes form when we understand that stress and emotional distress come out in all forms of illnesses and physical problems.
Articles have been written about how yoga has helped people with depression. My tears tonight and the relief it brought afterwards makes me feel there is a lot of truth to that. This is what people call “healing tears”.
If you are under stress, whatever form it takes, you may want to consider taking some gentle yoga under a teacher. The tears may not come but for sure, your body will reap the external (and internal) benefits that it offers you.