I just read a sentence from artist and business coach, Jennifer Lee. She said, “Painting helps you move through your emotion.”
Not being an artist, I was a little surprised by that. I thought, that’s exactly what yoga does! You don’t have to know what the emotion is. You don’t have to understand where the emotion comes from or if it has a purpose. You just have to get on the mat and be present with your feelings.
Anyone who has taken a class with me knows that I always start with a check-in. Whether I’m practicing at home on my own or whether I’m leading a class I always ask what’s happening body, mind and spirit. I invite students to lie on their backs, arms at their sides and just start at the top of the body and notice what’s happening physically in this moment. After a few moments of silent listening, I ask them to move their attention to their heart space and listen to what the heart has to say. I encourage them not to worry about naming an emotion, if they can’t easy identify it. Rather, just be present with the emotions. It’s perfectly normal and natural to have lots of emotions at once and sometimes those emotions can be conflicting. That’s completely okay.
As the practice begins keeping in mind that check-in with the heart can really help both your practice and process feelings. Moving from a down dog to a runner’s lunge may bring some things up body, mind and spirit. What comes up isn’t always important. As I’m moving from standing poses to a restful child’s pose my heart may sigh and the emotions may not feel as big. What I’m feeling doesn’t matter as much as allowing myself to feel and letting those emotions shift and possibly become lighter and more manageable.
Sometimes the opposite happens. Sometimes the feelings become bigger and maybe even manifest physically. Those are the emotions to be present with. Those are the emotions that may need action. For me, these are the emotions that mean something needs to shift or change in my life.
Not long ago my personal practice was difficult to get through, not because big, ugly emotions were coming up. The opposite, actually. I would get such a creative spark in the middle of my practice that I couldn’t resist jumping off the mat and writing in my journal or looking something up. What I’ve learned is that those emotions aren’t fleeting. I don’t have to jump off the mat, because most likely they’re not going anywhere. The practice allows my heart to open and signal to my brain what’s really important.
So for, Jennifer Lee, it’s painting. For me, it’s yoga. The important thing is to find a way to work those emotions. As Jennifer asks in her last newsletter, is there something you’re working through? I would ask, is there a place you’re feeling stuck or unsettled. Get on the mat. You don’t have to focus on that thing, even. Just be present with how you’re feeling body, mind and spirit and let yoga do it’s work.
Next month in Salem, MA I’m starting Breathe, a yoga group for anxiety and/or depression. We’ll learn some new tools and move through our emotions to make them more manageable. For more info or to sign up http://ayogikitchen.com.