Yoga & Emotional Healing: The Surprising, or Not So Surprising, Benefit of a Regular Yoga Practice

What first brought you to yoga?

We all come to yoga for our own reasons. For many, it’s to gain flexibility and strength in the body, or to find peace and quiet in the mind after a busy day. However, yoga has another superpower: healing emotional pain and trauma through breath and movement.

Emotional trauma and hurt can get buried deep within as a coping mechanism when we aren’t ready or able to process it. Our emotions may become trapped in our physical bodies causing pain or sometimes manifesting as stiffness causing a physical blockage within our muscles and joints. We might not even be aware that an emotional cause could be the reason for this discomfort.

Perhaps we intentionally find our way to the mat as a way to heal our heart ache. Recognizing that yoga is a practice to unite body, mind, and soul, we come to class to take the steps necessary to unpack the heavy load that we’ve been carrying. Sweating it out, breathing it out, crying it out, making room for better things.

Movement and Breathwork

The combination of movement and breathwork activates the body’s parasympathetic system which helps the body to recover and process events. A regular yoga practice will not only allow the body to recover and process events of the day, but will slowly, over time, recover and process events of the past.

Moving through poses, or asanas, keeps the body and emotions from being stuck. Breath, or prana, is using our life force to continue to clear out the old and make way for the new. Using breathwork, focusing on the inhale and exhale, calms the mind, lowers the heart rate, and brings focus to the here and now. While we can’t control what has happened to us, we can always control our breath and movement, and that is empowering.

As we connect movement to breath, we become aware of what our body can do. Each time we move through a pose, we can usually reach a little further, balance a little longer, or take it to a deeper expression. While our physical being is gaining strength and flexibility, so is our emotional being. We gain confidence on the mat that will transfer off the mat, too. We find support from our sangha (yoga community) simply by practicing together even if we never share a word.

Release

Often, when it’s been a physical reason that brought us to yoga, we begin to notice the mental clarity and emotional calmness as a surprise benefit. Once in a while, we find ourselves in tears during savasana and aren’t even sure why, and that’s okay. Actually, it’s more than okay- that’s what yoga is all about. Release. Certain poses, such as hip openers and heart openers, are designed to release trapped emotions. But, sometimes we’re surprised and it’s another pose or movement that sets something free. Don’t fight it- let it go- you are safe and supported by your mat and your community.

1. Child's Pose

1. Child’s Pose

This pose is a simple way to calm the mind and provide comfort and focus. It’s a great way to relieve tension, stress, and anxiety. Coming to Child’s Pose can help someone regain physical control after a panic attack.

2. Easy Pose

2. Easy Pose

Easy Pose lives up to its name in that it is quite literally an easy position to find. Sitting on the floor in a cross legged position gives the sense of feeling rooted to the ground, which helps those who struggle with anxiety as both a preventative and coping strategy.

3. Cat/Cow Pose

3. Cat/Cow Pose

Coming to hands and knees on the floor is another way to ground yourself. Connecting the movements to the breath is what makes this practice the most effective. Losing oneself in the subtle movements of the spine is revitalizing for the mind and body. Inhale as you look upward and open your heart, exhale as you draw the chind down and round the spine, hanging the head between the shoulders.

4. Locust Pose

4. Locust Pose

So many benefits come from this pose, and it’s so easy to personalize. Locust pose can alleviate some effects of chronic depression. It opens the heart, strengthens the spine to promote posture, and energizes the body.

5. Savasana

5. Savasana

While seemingly easy to do, this pose can be quite challenging for some people. Though this pose does not require any movement, stretch, or balance, it does require stillness and a strong mind-body connection. Lying on your back, with arms at your side, close your eyes. Focus on the breath moving in and out of your lungs. Relax all muscles and find the feeling of melting into your mat. For some, this pose can feel quite vulnerable making it very difficult to relax. Try covering yourself with a blanket for a sense of safety and security. Always come out of this pose slowly. Wiggle your toes, your fingers, your wrists and your ankles. Slowly bring movement to your head, your neck, and your body. This pose is helpful to people who suffer from panic attacks at night, or who have a hard time settling down after a long day.

Though you can reap physical and emotional benefits of yoga after just one class, creating a regular practice will result in both physical and emotional well being for years to come. Choosing to release tension and emotions or allowing them to release when they sneak up on you, will lead to a happier, healthier life.

At Inspiring Actions, we offer classes that meet a wide range of needs and purposes. Our Gentle and Restorative classes are a wonderful option for taking care of your emotional heart. If you are someone who likes to sweat it out, check out our Mixed Level and Power Vinyasa classes. We also offer one on one sessions and private group classes, too. Classes are held in person or virtually via Zoom and Facebook.

If you’re in the Hudson, Wisconsin area, we also have a Wellness Center that offers multiple modalities to aid in stress relief and emotional healing, such as Reflexology, Acupuncture, Hypnosis, and Yoga Therapy, just to name a few. Click here to learn what these amazing practitioners can do to help you.

For more information, please reach out to help@inspiringactions.com.

Resources:

1. Gaia: 5 Poses to Heal Emotional Pain and Calm the Mind
2. Yoga Journal: Yoga for Emotional Trauma

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