Quite possibly, you have felt a wave of emotion come over you during yoga class. It may have been sadness, joy, or even a negative sentiment that took you by surprise as you moved through your practice or held a certain pose. Crying during yoga, ecstatic elation, or even intense anger are all normal emotions to feel during yoga practice. During yoga, the subtle bodies become unblocked and deeper emotions can be revealed—sometimes when we least expect them.
Sadness can be triggered while in postures such as Cobra, Upward Facing Dog, or Wheel, all of which have heart-opening qualities that can have an intense effect, particularly in people who have a guarded or broken heart. Strong emotions are not uncommon after a practice that includes backbends. Child’s pose is another haven for sad emotions as we turn inward, seeking comfort in ourselves. If you find yourself crying in class, know that this is simply part of the practice. Try to stay with your breath and let the release wash over you.
Feelings of intense happiness are also common during yoga as we begin to understand ourselves better. After a particularly challenging posture that you maintained with steadiness and ease, you may feel pleased. As you connect more deeply with yourself in the practice, you may also feel more connected to those around you—also a great feeling. Or, you may feel a literal rush of endorphins after class that sets your mood for the rest of the day. Recognize your good feelings as they arise and know that they are part of the practice. Be careful, however, that you do not come to expect feeling elated after every class. Emotions are not that predictable, and neither is the yoga practice itself.
Finally, you may have also felt the wave of anger, disappointment, or annoyance when you didn’t “get the pose right,” when you remembered an event from your week, or when you were bothered by something said or done by someone else during class. We are all susceptible to these negative emotions, even on the yoga mat. Fortunately, the yoga practice helps us to slow down and notice our emotions as well as our responses to these emotions. The next time you find yourself peeved on the mat, find your breath. Notice the feeling and use your breath to move through it.
By recognizing and honoring the emotions that arise during yoga, you will better understand yourself, which is what this practice is really about at its core. You can use your experience with emotions on the mat to help you experience emotions off the mat in a constructive way. Emotion is part of the human experience and yoga can help us to better respond to the emotions that come.