This is going to sound a little ‘out there’ to the sceptics among you. But for those of you who have done much yoga you will probably have heard that we tend to carry negative emotions in our hips. So in a class with lots of hip-opening work your teacher may have mentioned that you could start to feel emotional. I have heard this a lot but I had never experienced an emotional release through the physical practice of yoga. Until Monday.
Last weekend was yoga teacher training weekend number five. We are now about half way through our training and starting to get deeper into our practice, which was obvious from the fact that we had people in tears on both days of the training. It’s such a supportive safe space and we’re starting to face our areas of avoidance and this generates a lot of emotion.
I always take the Mondays after each teacher training weekend off work to recuperate and process the learning. One of the things our teacher Elena Voyce had been teaching us was how to create stability in the pelvis before moving into a pose, using Warrior 1 as an example. We covered a lot of other things too but I guess I must have known that was one I needed to work on because in my self-practice at home on Monday, after a long, slow body awakening sequence, I moved in to Warrior 1 to put some of the learning into practice.
I worked hard to create stability in my hips and pelvis, particularly in the back of my body, before moving from that place of stability, like Elena was teaching us to. I found I couldn’t hold the pose for long but I kept breathing through it. It started to feel very intense. All I could do was breathe. Everything else left my mind because breathing was all I could focus on. After holding it for as long as I could, I stepped out of the pose, felt my emotions rushing up to the surface, and burst into tears.
I collapsed in a heap for a while and let the tears flow, feeling both a sense of release and bewilderment as to what was going on. Then I did the pose on the other side and exactly the same thing happened. And this time I didn’t stop crying for about 15 minutes. The tears weren’t about anything in particular, they just needed to come, and whatever I had been holding onto just left my body. It felt good, although the cat certainly looked a bit alarmed, watching me from his vantage point on the bed! Afterwards I sat in stillness and meditated for about 20 minutes, which is also something I don’t do very often but it definitely felt like what I needed.
I have had mental breakthroughs and realisations through yoga in the past but not this kind of emotional release. I always thought emotional release would come from hip opening through poses that require external rotation of the hip joints – pigeon pose, which is a deep hip opener, is the classic one that you hear about for this. But for me it seemed to come from creating stability…I guess I needed the stability in order to let go.
The geek in me is fascinated by all this. I emailed Elena to share the experience with her and ask her what she thought was going on. Anatomically, she said I needed to generate the stability in my glutes so that my iliopsoas could finally release. Which is interesting stuff in itself. But it’s also fascinating how our bodies can hold and release emotion at a cellular level in this way. It’s got me thinking more about the flow of energy and emotion through our bodies and chakras, and how closely connected our minds and bodies are.
I’m sure I’ll do more reading and thinking about all this, but actually, one of the big things I’m learning is the value of really feeling what’s going on, rather than intellectualising it all. This focus on embodied learning is a little outside my comfort zone…and of course that’s where the magic happens.