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.
Enhancing your Yoga Practice with Journaling
The art and practice of yoga promise many benefits to the practitioner, and the fruits of time spent on the mat are varied and innumerable. We experience these benefits in different degrees based on our dedication and commitment. Each of us has a gateway reason that initially brings us to the mat; typically, it’s something very broad like becoming more flexible or relieving stress. Inevitably over time, those reasons change, and the “get” from the practice becomes subtler, like raising consciousness or living more compassionately. No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum, there are tools that help to enhance the experience of Yoga, so the nectar of the practice is sweeter and more potent. Some of these tools require a hefty investment of time or resource and are therefore inaccessible to everyone, but other tools like the one we are talking about here are accessible to all. Journaling is a beautiful way to supplement and enhance your yoga practice—all you need is a pen, paper, and a few minutes of your day.
Journaling is a simple sacred act that calls us to a place of exploration, curiosity, and revelation. You don’t have to be a professional writer to be a personal journalist. Writing helps to process and exfoliate the lives we lead and our thoughts about them. Journaling helps to strengthen the path for a deeper relationship with Self. This intimate art clears mental clutter and leaves a sense of spaciousness in its wake. It is detoxifying for the mind and cathartic for the heart. Journaling, unlike a lot of self-growth modalities, is relatively easy and doesn’t require a financial output. It necessitates no training, no physical capabilities, and there are no grades or performance criteria. It is one of the most open and forgiving therapeutic avenues available to us. The question should rather be: Why not journal? The benefits are limitless, and the outlay is small in comparison.
The Yoga/Journaling Connection
Yoga is so much more than movement; Yoga is the science of and relationship to the Self. The modern yogi doesn’t typically have time to devote all waking hours to the theory and practice of Yoga. We are blessed with such multifaceted lives that we tend to harbor boatloads of gunk that fog our ability to see and experience reality from a place of pure conscience. Because our human experience is so complex, having supplemental tools to support the yogic process is vital. Journaling is a beautiful and very personal way to expand upon our time on the mat. A yoga practice is full of “ah-ha” moments, and often, those precious nuggets of wisdom get lost because we roll up our mats and walk away without engaging with follow-up practices that give space to explore and provide roots for revelations.
If you are new to journaling, the best way to get acquainted with the practice is by embarking on a daily stream of consciousness writing journey. This means that you sit down for five to fifteen minutes (or more!) and just write down what is flowing through your mind at that very moment. Don’t worry about punctuation, grammar, or making sense of anything; simply allow your thoughts to pour naturally through your hand to the paper. Don’t judge or choreograph the process; just write.
If you are finding that you sit down to journal, and nothing comes out simply be with the “nothingness.” Use it as an opportunity to meditate on the blockage. If you push past this place without recognizing it’s importance than you risk forfeiting some of the fertilizer that goes into the soil where you will eventually hope to grow. Everything exists for a reason, and we must honor what arises even if it feels unwelcome.