“Go deeper, go deeper, go deeper.”
I laid down on my back in Savasana after what felt like a very intense and fulfilling yoga session. It was only the third day of YTT, and my body was not yet used to the physical demands of all the conditioning we did. Nonetheless, the workout felt good. Finally, relaxation. Melting the body into the mat, feeling the perspiration slowly dry under the cool air from the air conditioning, the meditative voice of our teacher – it all felt calming. But the moment my body started to fully settle and cool down, I felt a sudden tightness in the body and tears started rolling out the corner of my eyes. Before I could make sense of what was happening, I was bawling.
As it turns out, it is fairly common for emotional releases to happen on the mat. So, what exactly was happening?
Focusing on the breath during meditation or savasana helps to calm the mind, taking away superficial stress and worry. But the silence and “going deeper” also forces us to access the feelings we bury and push aside on a daily basis. Emotional pain can feel overwhelming and crippling. The body hence comes to defense and does things to stop the pain from being fully experienced as a form of coping mechanism. There is thus a break between body and mind. However in yoga, the mind, body and spirit exists as one — or at least that’s the goal. The 3 are interconnected. The body keeps the score even if you’re not consciously thinking about it from day to day. It holds on to emotional tension, pain, trauma and intense joy. Through asanas, it wakes up the parts of the body that holds these emotions, helping to break through unresolved issues and energy.
Some say that hip-opening poses are good for helping to find release. It is not scientifically proven, but perhaps it can be understood when relating to Chakras. The muladhara chakra is situated in the tailbone. The traits stored in this chakra includes security, self confidence, body image, and connection with nature. The swadishtana chakra, located in the sacrum, includes gender identity, anger, and sexual relations. The manipura chakra, located at the naval, includes belonging, trust, intimacy, friendship, status of your current position in life and whether it deviates from your true nature, and fear. It seems like plenty of emotions are stored in these 3 chakras, all of which are situated near the hips. Perhaps they are stirred whenever sitting in a hip-opening pose.
There are also sources that speak of the benefits of chest openers in relation to emotional release. This could be due to the increased flow of Prana (life force) which is situated in the anahada chakra (heart). Prana rides on the breath, which correlates to our respiratory system. According to the chinese, grief is stored in the lungs. Crying also involves gasping for air.
However, I wonder how accurate these deductions are. If they are, could this be a potential way of identifying internal issues through physical tensions observed during asana postures? Or, could postures targeted at certain emotions be used in psychotherapy for healing?