When Yoga Makes You Cry
I suppose it’s not something people who do yoga really warn you about when you’re thinking of joining a yoga class for the first time. I suppose they don’t want to deter you from what they’ve more than likely found to be a profoundly valuable and positive experience.
But the little secret is that sometimes yoga makes you cry.
Somehow society has conditioned us to do everything in our power not to cry in front of people, except maybe our spouse, mom or the dog/cat/pet canary. But sometimes a cry is completely impossible to control, and frankly I don’t see why it should be suppressed. From a yoga instructor’s perspective, it certainly doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable, and I’m confident that a group of friends/acquaintances in a group yoga class are going to be nothing but empathetic and supportive to anyone who is overcome with emotion.
But you may wonder why it even happens. Aren’t we meant to be blissing out here in our yoga?
Well in defense of the general “positive” perception of yoga, I’d first like to suggest that it’s not necessarily “negative” to feel compelled to cry in a yoga class, or afterwards. I think it just comes down to the unpredictability of our emotions. On other days, or even most days, you may well feel completely blissed out, ecstatically content and even euphoric after your yoga class. The odd sobbing session is just your emotions manifesting that day, at that time, based on whatever baggage you’ve brought to class.
I believe we, our bodies/minds/emotions, are different every single day. And by extension, we start each yoga class from a different place emotionally. So some days you may start class a little more burdened than usual, quite possibly without even recognizing it. We may be burdened by worries about finances, relationships, work, injuries, whatever. The list is practically endless. Our baggage may not be from our life right now, but it could be from a trauma from a long time ago that we’re still carrying around.
What happens is that when we get into our yoga class, and we are actively and purposely working to relieve tension, we are also releasing some kind of stressor that caused that tension. The stressor of course may not be that you did a twenty-five minute 5K run the previous morning and are feeling a little tight in the hamstrings. It could easily be anxiety, concern, or just plain sadness over something going on in your life.
So as we move and stretch to release the physical tension in our bodies, we release emotional tensions too. And if that emotion is a sad one we may feel the overwhelming and uncontrollable need to cry. And that’s totally okay. My hope for anyone who has cried or cries in yoga, is that you leave a little bit lighter, a little bit clearer, and a little better able to keep working through your worries. I also hope that this overwhelming emotion is one of brightness and of bliss.
5 Ways to Overcome a Yoga Rut
Do you have to struggle to get yourself on your mat these days? Has your yoga practice become a chore? Do you find yourself thinking about dinner, the latest movie you want to catch, or just about anything else but yoga during your yoga practice? Are you demotivated, frustrated or plain bored of doing yoga? If you answered “yes” to any of these, it is highly likely that you are stuck in a yoga rut.
Okay, so that’s the bad news. The good news is that it is totally possible to lift yourself out of this slump–I know this as I have personally been there. I succeeded in re-energizing my practice and so can you. Here are my suggestions for getting through this challenging time.
How to Overcome Your Yoga Rut
1. Pause and reflect.
The first and foremost step is to go within and get in touch with your feelings without being judgmental. What are you experiencing? Is it fatigue, boredom, frustration, depression, anger, annoyance, hopelessness or a combination? Next, ask yourself why you could be feeling this way, and listen to whatever comes up. The answer could be revealing and could instantly give you the insight you need.
2. Take a short break.
If you are feeling drained, are lacking in energy or feel physically exhausted, it is possible that you are going through a stressful time in other areas of your life. You might also be driving yourself too hard in your yoga practice without taking an occasional break. If so, the answer lies in acknowledging and honoring your need for some time out.
Our bodies need rest to rejuvenate and thrive, so give yourself permission to press the pause button on your practice while you indulge in other self-care rituals–like massage. You will know when you are ready to resume your practice because you will feel a sense of renewal when you hit the mat again.
3. Try something different in your practice.
We are humans and human beings get bored. It’s a fact of life. If you are feeling bored with your yoga routine and find yourself simply going through the motions, you have probably outgrown your present practice. You need to add more stimulation and challenge to your routine–this will keep your mind engaged and interested as there will be something new to observe, experience and master. Trying a new asana, a new variation of your favorite asana, or altering the pace of your practice by experimenting with a dynamic flow versus static holds could reengage you.
Something that always works for me is to focus my attention on an unexplored dimension during a posture. This could be with a physical aspect (for instance, taking my attention to the way my hips and knees are feeling during cobra pose rather than focusing only on the bend in the back), or it could be through an observation of the pattern of my breath and the emotions, feelings and thoughts that arise during the posture. Try it yourself.
4. Learn or study a new aspect of yoga.
Yoga teachings have multiple dimensions and are richly layered. I find that studying an unexplored realm, such as functional anatomy; yogic anatomy and physiology; or yoga philosophy, provides me with a fresh perspective on yoga. Subsequently, applying this new information takes my practice to a new high. For instance, reading about the Yamas and Niyamas and reflecting on their application made a huge difference in the way I approached my asana practice.
Delving into the anatomy of individual postures keeps me motivated to scientifically examine myself whenever I am on the mat–this process also provides valuable insight into necessary alignment corrections, and creates an awareness of specific muscle groups that need to be worked on.
5. Stop striving for perfection.
If you are feeling annoyed frustrated, hopeless or depressed, it is very likely that you are trying too hard to attain the final posture. Perhaps you saw a relative newbie execute a flawless Pigeon pose at a yoga class recently and felt defeated since your Pigeon is nowhere close. If this strikes a chord, it is a good time to remind yourself what yoga is all about.
Yoga is a journey of self-discovery and transformation. The asanas are just a means to this end. To reap the benefits of yoga, it is not essential that you achieve a perfect posture. As in any other journey, it is rewarding to enjoy the ride and have fun along the way. So lighten up, accept your present levels of flexibility and strength and aim to enjoy your practice. This attitude shift may be all that you need to reconnect with yoga.
I hope these tips help navigate you through the temporary turbulence you are experiencing along your path. Remember, clear and bright skies are just around the bend.