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.
Dedicate Your Practice, Dedicate Your Life
ded·i·cate [v.ded-i-keyt;adj.ded-i-kit] To set apart and consecrate for a sacred purpose.
At the beginning of a typical yoga class, you’ll usually be asked to either set your intention or dedicate your practice to something or someone. This is part of what makes yoga unique to other physical activities or exercise classes. You do not usually set aside time prior to a kickboxing or a Zumba class, but doing so before a yoga practice helps to center us. It allows us time to be still and to contemplate, or mediate on, why we came to do what we are about to do. Why am I practicing yoga today? It challenges us to be present in what we are doing, on and off the yoga mat.
In whatever we are doing, we can meditate and turn our thoughts toward anything. Meditation is contemplation. In Eastern Philosophy, many set their intention on deities or Self. Alternatively, many different organizations and religious groups incorporate aspects of yoga to dedicate their own practice, life and worship. Some religions focus on the gods and goddesses of Indian Mythology, and others, such as Christians, turn their focus to Jesus as they practice. dedicating this set apart time for a sacred purpose.
Remember the definition of yoga: yoga is to unite or to yoke. Yoke is defined as joining together. This wonderful gift of yoga is meant to “bring together,” whether speaking about uniting our beliefs with our movements and meditation practice, uniting one to another, bringing together our breath with postures or joining together our mind, body and spirit. This is an inclusive practice, never to be an exclusive practice. So no matter what your belief system or your background–sex, race, religion, or any other factor–you are welcome and accepted in yoga, just as you are.
The definition of dedicate, once again, is to set apart and consecrate for a sacred purpose. Take time to ponder this definition. What do you hope to achieve in the time that you set aside? Dedicate your time on the mat to whomever and whatever you want. Meditate on the immense blessings that you have to be thankful for in your life and devote your time to something much bigger than yourself. If I have friction in my life, I come to my mat and simply exhale as I create space for the new. Whatever the “new” is, I visualize that coming into my life on my next inhalation. I encourage you to create space by exhaling the old and inhaling the “new”; mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally.
Perhaps you decide take this practice of dedication and devotion off your mat. What would you like to dedicate your day to? Furthermore, what might you dedicate your life to? This is a big question, I know. We so often just go through the motions. Pretty soon we find that our life is going by faster and faster. Yoga encourages us to be present and aware more than any other physical activity available.
Use your practice to become more focused and more keenly aware of what you may want to devote your life’s work to. It will be much bigger than you. It may even scare you once you receive the answer, but that is when you will know you are on the right track. We live in a hurting world and there is so much that you can do to extend your light to others. Start asking about dedication and devotion, set apart time for your sacred purpose.