Why the hell did I cry in my yoga class??
Has this ever happened to you? How did it make you feel? Maybe it sent you scampering for the door, never to return.
I vaguely remember the first time I cried in a yoga class. I say vaguely because I confess to opening the floodgates many a time on my mat. Have we met? If we have, you’ll perhaps know this of me.
Seriously, I could cry at washing powder commercials sometimes.
In times gone by, I would have described this in the same way as I might describe an affliction, a disorder, a weakness. Not no more, sista (and brothers because you’ll find no gender discrimination here, you understand).
Grammar Police, that was a deliberate double-negative. Just saying’.
The first time I cried on my yoga mat, I felt overwhelmed with happiness. It was during my yoga teacher training at Bahia Yoga. We were chanting what I find to be a hugely emotive mantra and I was surrounded by people for whom I had a profound affection and respect for, so I did not feel ashamed or embarrassed. I was exactly where I wanted to be and with people I wanted to share the moment with. I felt extreme gratitude and love.
Another time I cried on my yoga mat, in the same studio (hmmmm 🤔), I was feeling deep sadness in my very bones. And yes, I did scamper from the studio on the verge of hiding my face. Not for shame or embarrassment, but because I needed to be away and in my own space. Immediately. On a side note, my beautiful teacher recognised my desperate need in that moment and there was no big deal made, so I suppose I slunk way from the studio rather than scampered.
I offer these two examples to highlight my own experience of emotions at the polar end of the spectrum. There have been many times in between of varying different intensities.
So, my confession is this
I cry during yoga
I have even felt overcome from the other side of the mat. Yes, when I have been teaching a class. Does this make me a less efficient teacher? No. It makes me a more authentic, real teacher. What I used to identify with as weakness, I now understand to be one of my greatest gifts. I feel things very deeply and I feel no shame in telling you that.
My capacity to really feel is my superpower and I do not apologise for it.
Being on the teacher side of the mat, I have witnessed people shaken with emotion as they come out of a savasana, relaxation or meditation. Some accepting of their feelings, some downright shocked at the sheer power of them. I want to tell you what I have told all of them
It is completely fine to cry during a yoga practice.
It becomes quite clear for people that yoga really is not just what happens on the mat. It is not a gymnastics, aerobics or gym class where the focus is just the physical ability and fitness.
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit ‘yui’ which means to yolk or unite the whole of the body, breath, mind and spirit. A holistic approach to the wellbeing of you.
Why do we cry in yoga?
Quite plainly, during our everyday lives we hang onto emotions that just need to get out. Cultural and societal practices have taught us just to suck it up. How many times have you reflected on a conversation with someone after the event and been kicking yourself “I should’ve said this”, “I should have said that”? It leaves us with a feeling of something unfinished.
Or how many times has someone asked if you were ok only for you to respond “I’m fine” through gritted teeth?
Or you’ve had a tough day at work? Or a tough couple of weeks with the children? Or a tough few months in a difficult relationship?
Generally speaking, we avoid the confrontational or the things that aren’t ever-so polite. OK, there are exceptions to the rule – I’m sure we all know at least one or two contentious folk. But I think you get the gist.
Words that we don’t speak and send out to the ether seem to end up staying inside.
And guess what? Those little buggars multiply feelings such as resentment and anger like a bunch of randy rabbits.
Where do they end up?
Have you ever felt so stressed out that you’ve been in desperate need of a massage for your tight shoulders? Grind your teeth in your sleep? Felt so anxious that you feel like you have a plug in your throat from keeping those words in? So uptight that the knot in your stomach messes with your digestive system in a blocking or an unblocking way, if you know what I mean?
These unspoken words or feelings can become actual physical disorders of your bodily systems. Seriously, if your body systems are not in order or at ease, you suffer from dis-order and dis-ease.
On a side note, lots of people’s stress management can and does affect their digestive systems. If it affects you in this way, you may want to consider alternative therapies and I can wholeheartedly recommend the services of two very lovely ladies, Jane Bush and Linda Booth.
In my opinion, these are actual real-life angels right here in Nottingham. Let’s not be daft about this; we all have digestive systems that can need support at some stage. The gut is commonly referred to as the second gut. Even Psychology Today says so. Drop the embarrassment. OK?
You might also have a think about consulting with a qualified nutritional therapist to heal your body systems with goodies from Mother Natures store cupboard. And you won’t go far wrong to check out Nottingham’s very own Eva Humphries, the Wholefood Warrior. She really does know her stuff.
why do you feel emotional in a yoga class?
When you put your body through a 60min yoga class, you’re telling your body that, yes, you’re putting all the bullshit of the day to one side and you’re investing into yourself to stretch, twist, pull, contract and lengthen your muscles. These same muscles that enable you not just to move your frame but to digest, to breath and to keep vital nutrients pumping around your body. The movement of these muscles encourages the movement of toxins and waste products through your lymphatic drainage system and yes, that includes stress hormones that may be coursing through waiting to be broken down and normal waste from cellular activity..
You’re telling yourself that actually, it’s ok to rest and to enjoy conscious breathing which stimulates the relaxation side of your nervous system. You’re telling yourself that yes, you can stop the endless stream of pointless or all-consuming thoughts that every one of us have.
You’re telling yourself that yes, you are important enough to deserve your full attention.
We all feel those things, right? You are completely normal.
Is it any wonder that sometimes all of that complicated stuff leaks out of your eyes??
Please, please give yourself a break.
Be just as kind to yourself as you would be to a person that you really love.
Certainly in my classes, tears are as just welcome as giggles and yoga trumps. Don’t worry, I won’t drag you to the front of the room to show for all such an excellent demonstration of emotional release. I pinky promise.
I also promise that I will always have a supply of (eco-friendly) tissues in my yoga kit bag.
I will always offer you my yoga teacher’s ear and my absolute discretion for anything you need to share – because people do share. So please know that I hold the deepest respect for anything anyone tells me in my capacity as your trusted yoga teacher.
I promise I will try not to offer solutions or to fix it for you – I know you are more than capable - but I understand deeply that it is a cherished and honoured position I have here, to be able to hold space for another human being who needs a shoulder.
If you laugh, you laugh.
If you cry, you cry.
Every emotion is temporary, and it passes.
Allow yourself to really feel the all bad as well as all the good and to draw lessons and strength from every experience. For this is one of the lessons that yoga philosophy teaches us in the form of the third niyama, Tapas.
If you’re feeling the need to get on your mat in the privacy of your own home, check out this blog post which discusses how to manage grief, sadness and loss and includes some practical things you can do to help yourself heal as well as some yoga poses to take if you feel like you need to move the emotions through your body.
Whatever you are dealing with at this stage in your life, you’ve got this, my darling, and you will come out of the other side soon enough all the stronger for it.
Sending you all my love,
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