Lesson Learned

Posted: August 5, 2011 in Lifestyle, Yoga
Tags: ,

NEVER go to yoga class with a heavy heart.  Well, that’s providing you don’t want to end up blubbering like a baby in front of room full of hot yoga chicks that is.  I know, right?

To make a long story short, I have just received the tragic news that my beloved best buddy, Miso, is currently slipping away thanks to a worsening issue with his kidneys.  Needless to say I’m beside myself with distraught, but I’ll leave that tale for another post.

So in an effort to console myself the other day and to keep my mind off fretting about the inevitable, I tried to keep myself busy engaged in other strenuous activities like my normal workouts which I approached with an intensely that I seldom accomplish.  After all, nothing flushes out negative emotions and stress like a good ‘ol Sufferfest and Lord knows I have no problems with suffering as it is.

As such, I went for an hour long tempo run in the morning and was, albeit briefly, okay.  I was temporarily liberated from my pent up sadness and stress and even found a few brief moments of Zen. Later, I went for a long 3k swim at the Welland International Flatwater Center  with a group known as the ‘Canal Swimmers’.  Same as with my run, my thoughts were buffered from the anxiety I’m currently dealing with as not much goes through my head while swimming other than breathing and counting the fishies beneath me; so far, so good.  But then I made the mistake of thinking that I could similarly keep my brain occupied by attending another hot yoga class and as it turns out…BIG mistake.

By about the 10 minute mark all I could think about was the imminent sadness I’m experiencing to the point where I couldn’t focus on the instruction being given by the instructor.  I labored well behind everyone else, often confused about what was going on as my eyes welled up with tears and emotions I was not ready to experience came flooding out like the beads of sweat dripping from my body.  I couldn’t breathe and I was even finding it difficult to perform simple poses and postures that I would ordinarily find easy.  Shit, I couldn’t even balance myself for more than a few seconds in tree pose‘What the fuck is going on?’  is all I could dwell on and I quickly became agitated and disappointed with myself as the session progressed.

Definitely Not Winning!

So why is this exactly?  Why is yoga so much different than everything else?  I know I’ve experienced a similar emotional release during one of my massages, but never of this magnitude and definitely not during a ‘workout’.  Did I suddenly develop ovaries, or have I gone soft or something?  After all, tough guys don’t cry do they?  Well, at least not in public they don’t anyway.  So what’s going on exactly?

So after a short while Googling on the topic, I discovered this:

Emotional reactions during yoga sessions are very common. When we commit to the yogic path through the physical asana practice, we are doing much more than just exercising our bodies. Although it is slowly becoming more accepted in the West, it is much more common in Asian thought to recognize the inseparability of the body, mind, and emotions. Chinese doctors insist that our organs are linked to our emotions, which affects our overall health, while Indian Ayurvedic doctors and yogis inform us of the interconnection between our state of mind, our breath, and our bodies. So, it naturally follows that the emotional impact of our experiences are imprinted into our bodies, affecting the balance of our vital energy and the harmony (or disharmony) of our whole system.

Okay, I followed, like, none of that.  Remember, I’m still a total yoga noob here, right?  So I’m not sure how much stock I put into this spiritual mumbo jumbo at the moment, but there is no denying what I experienced in class the other day.  Fortunately, the good thing about hot yoga is that nobody notices if you’re crying or not given that we’re all leaking from our pours anyway.  But this did make sense to me:

In addition to the physical and energetic impact of yoga practice, it is also an awareness discipline that is not merely focused on moving the body with a physical goal in mind as in sports, dance, or calisthenics. Our willfulness when playing sports may override our emotions, but in yoga asana we have a precious opportunity to welcome in all states, uncensored and free of expectations or analysis. For this reason, you may notice a release of emotional energy seemingly unrelated to the specific moment at hand. As you become mindful of your emotions, you will be able to include a broader range of feeling states to be metabolized as they are happening, which is called spontaneous mindfulness.

Now, THAT, I can relate to.  Hence, my wanting to punish myself with long painful activities that will keep my mind off of other more pressing matters.  Furthermore:

Depending on the shade of the emotion, you might experience sensations like a change in breath rhythm, tightness in the belly or restrictions in the chest. You might also feel waves of chills through the spine, contraction in the shoulders, or a heaviness of heart with tears in the eyes. Often accompanying these experiences are uninvestigated beliefs and assumptions going on in the mind.

Ah, yup, that’s exactly what it felt like…fer sure.  So yoga brings out emotions.  Who knew?  In fact, certain poses are well known to release pent-up anger, sadness, frustration, and so forth, as the mind and body work to become one.

I am a little encouraged, however, in knowing that this is not an altogether uncommon occurrence in yoga so I don’t necessarily have to feel like a complete puss.  But going forward, I now recognize that this is a discipline that I have to regard and treat more carefully in the future; definitely with more consideration and respect than I do with my other training practices.

Good to know.

  1. Jen says:

    Awe… Sorry to hear about Miso buddy. And good to know about the yoga experience. Had one of those myself last time I went, albeit milder than what you are describing. Didn’t like it much. LOL

  2. Lindsay says:

    Terry…I am so sorry to hear about your sweet kitty. Thinking of you!

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