As spiritual beings having a human experience, we have a huge range of emotions we are capable of experiencing and sometimes several show up at once. For various reasons, the holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year. It’s a perfect time to become more aware of your emotional experience in yoga practice and use the breath to release tension and pent-up energy.
Whether you’ve been practicing asana for years or you have just started, it’s important to remember that yoga can bring a whole gamut of emotions to the forefront.
This is especially true during the holiday season where pressure and commitments can threaten our inner stability. You may notice yourself in Savasana choking back tears. Or maybe the teacher holds the class in warrior posture forever and you feel anger. Maybe you look at others in the room that seem to be balancing perfectly or are more flexible and you feel jealous. You could be in child’s pose and feel relief or sadness or anxiety. Yikes! Why does this happen? What to do?
Again, we’re called to remember that the body is full of suppressed thoughts and emotions. From an experience when you were 5 where you were told to “Be quiet!” when you were laughing, to repeated experiences of choking back tears for fear of being ‘weak’, to learning from an early age that women or men do not express their anger and should ‘just be nice’, all these experiences resulted in the holding of breath, and thus the retention of the emotion. It could also be that just yesterday you felt frustrated with your partner, didn’t say anything, and today the repressed thought or feeling is showing itself in your practice. You have been out shopping in the chaotic traffic and bustle of the holidays and can’t find a parking spot. The gifts you planned on getting are out of stock. You’ve got to get cards done, gifts mailed, go to the kids Christmas concerts or a number of dinner parties. Life gets overwhelming, tension builds, and you’d love to just scream. You keep it inside because it’s supposed to be a ‘happy’ time. These are just a few of hundreds of possible situations that influence our suppressed emotions and thoughts at this time of year.
Once you acknowledge that you have these repressed thoughts and emotions, it is easier to accept that the illumination of your emotional self is simply part of the purpose and gift of a yoga asana practice. Our job is to notice, to simply pay attention. It is guaranteed, with continued practice, your yoga will burn away more than just physical toxins. Emotional and mental patterns that are in the way of your centered, calm, true Self (your Spirit) must be released from the body so your vessel becomes pure and can gradually receive a higher and higher vibration.
Accepting the movement and flow of your emotions is one of the keys to the purification process of yoga. Practicing this acceptance will effortlessly translate into a deeper acceptance of yourself and move you closer to a place of being in your true power. To begin to practice this purification of your emotional and mental patterns, start to watch thoughts and emotions as they come up and when they do, take a breath and welcome the experience (well, um, start to practice welcoming the experience). Whether you’re in a line-up at the post office, in downward dog, or decorating your home for the holidays, take a breath and practice welcoming again.
Welcoming emotions, practicing acceptance and compassion (with yourself) and being open to new understandings, will assist in this holiday season being one of more presence, ease, calm, and enjoyment!
Be sure to pencil in your yoga practice and keep breathing ……the peace of the holiday season lies within you.