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Yoga and sadness

How yoga can tap into our inner emotions - By Emma Mills

Reading time: 4 minutes

Feeling sad or depressed isn’t something that is often mentioned when we talk about yoga, we like to talk about the good stuff, how yoga has made us feel positive and uplifted, how we are in a much better exercise routine now because of yoga or how yoga helped us get a grip on our anxious thoughts.

Those things are all true, yoga has a whole library of benefits, I could waste an entire day naming them!

But I want to ask, have you ever felt a rush of emotion when in a yoga practice? An overwhelming need to have a good cry? Perhaps not even noticed or understood why a tear was trickling down your cheek during class.

I want to openly explain why this sadness may occur and why its perfectly normal and healthy to feel this way.

I’ve heard many times before ‘not to bottle things up’, ‘the body keeps score’ and it does.

When we are busy living our lives, we are used to dealing with daily chaos, we often forget to stop and check in with ourselves, questioning how situations made us feel emotionally, the mind helpfully puts those emotions away for us, in a box and kicks it to the back of our minds, its often how we cope.

We then walk into a yoga class expecting to flow through it and be on our way after an hour of sun salutations and tricky postures we want to master but instead are met by stillness, becoming aware of the breathe, feeling a sense of secure vulnerability which in turn signals to our nervous system and all those stored emotions that its a safe time to let go and release the hold on this sadness we tried to forget about months maybe years ago.

And we cry, we sob, we feel sad, we let go.

At this point I'd tell you that your yoga practice has done its job in helping you process your feelings and the body has had a perfectly natural response to the practice.

If this happens, I want you to know its absolutely fine, you are fine and you are safe, sadness is a human emotion, we cant get around it and we shouldn’t try so here are some tips to aid the healing process;

  1. Acceptance – Sit with how you feel and accept that you suddenly feel sad and you may or may not know why, you can take a break from your practice or you may continue, I prefer to continue and work through the poses, taking in and processing any emotions that arise.

  2. Breathe – When we feel a strong emotion such as feeling sad many people especially if they are in a public yoga class try to bottle it up and push it to one side, if you are confused and feeling un-sure, put one hand on your heart and the other on your stomach and breathe in and out until the breathing slows and you can feel the small break between the inhale and exhale.

  3. Become present – Yoga teaches us to be here now in the present moment, it is a time to let go of the hurt you felt in the past or things that upset you about the future, this is easily said but try to work on being in the here and now.

  4. Cry it out – Remind yourself and others that its okay to cry, its fine to feel sad, its a part of life, sadness cannot hurt you, it does not affect you as a person or make you weaker than anyone else, in fact owning your own emotions can be incredibly empowering.

If you find yourself having a down day or coping with a sadness in your life, don’t shy away from your mat, begin your yoga practice as normal and allow your emotions to arise, allow yourself to feel anyway you need to and ultimately own it, you feel sad/down in the dumps/depressed and that’s okay, you have acknowledged your feelings and are sitting with them while you heal.

Namaste, love and light to all.

Emma Mills

Emma is a 200hr qualified yoga teacher, specialising in Hatha Yoga and breathwork, aside from this she has completed many CPD yoga courses and recently completed a 'flexibility workshop'.

She is currently teaching voluntarily online and being inclusive to every student is always at the forefront of her mind when setting up a class.

Using social media and the discovery of Instagram she has been able to reach out and share the joys of practicing yoga with many other likeminded people.