A personal story in honor of National Stress Awareness Month.
A couple of years ago I happily hurried to my hot yoga class. Towards the end of the class, while in child’s pose I broke down. Tears started flowing. I don’t remember feeling stressed or sad at that time, but somehow waves of emotions suddenly swelled up inside me. It took me by surprise, but I didn’t think anything of it. I blamed it on the music, the dim lights and the inspiring words of the instructor. I left the class feeling whole, grounded and aware. A couple of weeks later I decided to Google it and apparently emotional breakthroughs in yoga are common and may occur when long held feelings and strong emotions, that a person has carried unconsciously, are accessed and released. After learning this I knew that something similar had happened at my spinning class. These experiences deepened my commitment to exercising and yoga. Exercise became not only a physical training but also an emotional release. And no, I don’t weep everyday at the gym.
In yoga, there is no separation between the body, mind and soul. What happens to the mind happens to the body. Meaning our mental and emotional condition affects our physical body. Dwelling about mistakes from the past and worrying about the future robs the enjoyment of today. Not being present creates stress and gets in the way of truly living. Stress not only afflicts your mind; it affects the physical body at a cellular level. Long-term stress can lead to a wide range of illnesses—from headaches to stomach disorders to depression—and can even increase the risk of serious conditions like heart disease and stroke.
Yogis believe that as life comes and goes emotions from stressful and painful situations can get stuck in the body. Life experiences can also make us hold misguided thoughts. These stuck emotions and negative thoughts keep us from reaching our best self and full potential. Asanas in yoga connect the body, mind, and soul and unleash energy that allows long held feelings to surface. My emotional experience during yoga left me feeling empowered and overjoyed. There is a reason behind this. Emotional tears contain protein-based hormones. These hormones build-up when we are overburdened, and shedding them is a coping mechanism our body has to prevent a toxic build-up of stress. We often equate exercise with a “high” but sometimes an emotional breakthrough happens. Intense workouts “peel” the outermost layers of the body; what you accumulated that day or have been acuculating in past weeks/months. Releasing emotions and thoughts that are on the “surface” of the mind/heart allows you to access the voice that is inside and those suppressed feelings.
Each experience is unique. Not everyone cries on the mat, but if you do, this is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of being present and aware of your feelings. Yoga is a powerful way to de-stress and because of it I am stronger physically and mentally. Yoga made a lasting change in the way I love, live and work.