As a yoga studio owner, you aren’t looking forward to the email that says “I’ve been avoiding coming to yoga” but this time it made me giggle, smile and say “awwww”.
This was an easy one.
I’ll start with my own story and then get back to the email. Some of you know that my two youngest boys are only 18 months apart. Call it lack of planning, no plan, or the celestial plan it was the plan that unfolded. And I am utterly grateful. My two heathens are simultaneously best friend and greatest enemy; living life in an intermingled hurricane of togetherness. Can you imagine? They have never known life without the other. The beauty of this relationship is awe inspiring but the strain on my body was not as lovely.
By the time it was all over (in about two and a half years) I had been pregnant twice, birthed two babies and breastfed for over a year and a half. My body was completely depleted. I was an anemic, dehydrated, exhausted emotional hot mess.
I wanted to feel human again. I went back to my comfort zone and start doing yoga regularly. It was amazing and felt incredible but then the strangest thing happened..…
I would do a fun, invigorating yoga class. I felt great in that sweaty, warm, energized yet also exhausted way. I’d lay down on my mat for an out of this world savasana and I WOULD START BALLING! Like huge tears just streaming down my face. Sometimes, I had to hold it in so I wouldn’t sob out loud. It was embarrassing! Why was I crying uncontrollably? What the heck was wrong with me?
So when I got the email that said, “I have been sort of avoiding going to yoga classes recently because....... I would start crying for no apparent reason. It was a little embarrassing...” I had to smile. I could TOTALLY relate.
I put the question to my teachers. “Have you ever cried during yoga?” They answered as I did, a chuckle and then an “of course!” We ALL had and we had seen our students cry too. It dawned on me that we had all experienced this. We learn about it in Yoga Teacher Training (usually) yet I never thought to tell my students about it. Seemed like a major oversight!
How do you explain this phenomena? Personally, I think it’s a mix of things. Some believe that our muscles hold emotions that can be released as we practice. Certainly, our bodies hold tension and as that tension is relaxed it can create an overwhelming feeling of relief that comes out as tears.
In some cases the mat serves as a sacred space, where we can allow our feelings to emerge without judgement. Clinical psychologist and registered yoga teacher Dr. Melody Moore (in this piece for Self Magazine) stated, “‘I used yoga to process my dad's death.....On my mat, I gave myself permission to cry and move through that grief.’" Certainly yoga isn’t therapy but on our mats we can begin to FEEL. And that’s a start.
Sometimes too we can cry out of accomplishment/pride, sheer exhaustion or great joy. These are all things we feel in our practice that makes yoga something truly special. People view yoga as exercise but it is much more. With each breath, with each moment of focus, with each feeling of grounding that we get on our mats, we begin to understand and relate to our bodies and our emotions in new ways. We are able to be present in our bodies in a way that is hard to duplicate on a treadmill.
Why did I cry? I think it was a mixture of "this feels great and I haven't felt great in SO LONG" and my body saying,"do you know what I've been through?" LOL. The next time you feel yourself getting choked up during class, remember that you are not alone, you are affirmed in your human need to express any and all emotions and you are SEEN (but not like, in a weird, “we are watching you” way). Maybe Dr. Moore said it best in the article mentioned above:
"Just as we welcome joy, pleasure, and excitement, we have to welcome grief, shame, and anger. When you deny or repress any part of your experience, you start to block off and separate part of who you are. Don't try to stop or judge whatever arises. Nobody will be harmed by your crying, and you perhaps will be healed by it.”
Here's to a yoga class that is fulfilling, challenging yet comforting and maybe makes you wanna cry, just a little.
Read my thoughts on yoga, teaching, parenting and everything in between. Shout out to Tiffany Stewart for help with the writing.