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How Can Yoga Help You Understand Your Emotions?

Healing | Health

One of the reasons I love the practice of yoga is how it has taught me to welcome every flavor of emotion and feeling on my path.

In one class I remember wanting to stab the teacher after she was guiding all of us to sustain Goddess/Horse Pose for what seemed like an eternity. I felt angry, even though she weaved in permission for us to release the posture whenever we wanted.

Another time I recall moving through a well sequenced Vinyasa flow and a sense of sweetness washed over me; I felt integrated and connected.

Feelings seem to be integrated into so much of my yoga experience. Often in the Corpse Pose at the end of class I feel a sense of relief, more space. It almost feels like a bubble of tension pops. Sometimes that pop elicits a few tears, other times it just feels like something being composted in the background.

Spending Time with Your Emotions

In the past I never used to spend much time with my feelings, and on a recent flight I was reminded of how this shows up off the mat, and the value of connecting to my emotional palette out in the world.

I know the statistics on flying. They say it’s safer than driving your car.

But when you throw in a bit of unruly turbulence, my confidence in numbers isn't as relevant when primal chemicals begin to flood my brain. Not sure you know this, but if you are freaked out by flying, avoid the back of the plane. Everything is felt much more acutely the further back you go into the cabin.

As we were making our approach for landing on my flight into Chicago — and yes, I was sitting in the back — the plane was being jostled around in all directions. It's one thing to have a little side-to-side action (I can handle that), it's the sudden drops down, think rollercoaster, accompanied by audible expressions of fear from surrounding passengers that make my heartbeat sizzle.

Encountering Turbulence

Whenever I encounter turbulence of this nature I take deeper breaths and I repeat a soothing Ganesha chant as I envision stability amidst the storm. But what fascinates me even more is to witness my biological, and consequently my emotional, reaction midstream.

Even as I attempt to breathe deeply and focus my attention on something else, my body is hardwired for emergency response.

A truly beautiful dance. I slow my heart down through focus and breath and then in an instance, as we drop and people sound, it spikes once more.

At one point, a passenger behind me burst into tears — I assume fearing her life was about to end — I tried to stay in my own space and not get caught up in her experience, but it wasn't easy.

Integrating Yoga

In a twisted way I love moments that elicit diverse emotions, in this case fear, because they don’t visit everyday.

But here's what I've learned: whatever emotions you experience in your everyday, be it happiness, fear, sadness, or anger, try to integrate them with your yoga practice. Because isn't the real goal of yoga to take it off the mat and into your life? Welcome your emotions, sit with them, and see how they work in your body.

By taking the time to observe your emotions in this way (think of it as a meditation!), you'll understand yourself, and your practice, better.

How has yoga helped you understand your emotions, both on and off the mat? Share with us in the comments below!

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