Yoga for Emotional Healing: Myth or Reality?
Have you ever sat in a long, held hip opener like Pigeon Pose, or perhaps you’ve arrived at a deep backbend like Camel Pose and, all of a sudden, you’re consumed by a strong flood of emotions and a release of energy that left you feeling confused?
We know that feeling very well!
While yoga certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all remedy or a substitute for traditional medicine whenever necessary, several studies including from Harvard University and The Center for Trauma and Embodiment in Boston, Massachusetts, have recognized yoga as a complementary therapy used and recommended by many physicians and healthcare practitioners.
Among many others, the benefits of a regular yoga practice include stress management, reduced anxiety, better circulation, deeper sleep, and improved overall strength and flexibility, which may result in better pain management.
Whenever we’re coping or dealing with emotional pain like trauma, anxiety, depression, or grief, a purely intellectual or mental approach to processing our emotions can sometimes fall short. This is because our bodies are intricately connected through a complex web of neurons or nerve endings within our nervous system that connects our bodies to our brains and helps them communicate with one another. In other words, we can’t think our way out of our pain entirely but; instead, we must invite the body to be part of the healing process if we’re looking for a more holistic approach.
The ancient wisdom of yoga aims to unite the mind, body, and spirit into a single practice through the asana (physical postures), pranayama (breathwork), and dhyana (meditation), where we are able to develop curiosity and a felt sense of what is happening within the mind and body moment to moment, and how they shift as we move and transition between the postures.
The breathwork and the ability to spend some time in each posture whilst feeling the body and its energy levels can also offer a safe space to explore the internal dialogue within the mind, also known as the monkey mind, and how they influence how we feel.
For example, when we say, “I feel anxious, depressed, sad, or angry,” what we’re actually saying is that “I’m experiencing these disturbing, difficult sensations within my body,” and by linking the breath with the body whilst moving and holding the yoga postures, we also start to experience the nuanced physiological shifts within our moods and energy levels.
In the same way, changing our thought patterns can influence how we feel, shifting the position of our bodies can influence the mind and, as a result, induce emotional release.
As we sweat, toxins are released from the body producing feel-good hormones and endorphins, and as we stretch and learn how to build flexibility and challenge our end range of motion, we also shift the bodily patterns where emotional pain may be trapped within the muscles, connective tissues, and fascia.
In yoga literature, the yoga postures, breathwork, and meditation also help release constricted parts within the body, facilitating the free flow of the vital lifeforce energy, also known as prana.
There are many styles of yoga to choose from, with some more focused on physical fitness or weight loss while others are more meditative, spiritual, and calming in nature.
If you’re new to yoga or feel overwhelmed about where to begin your journey on the mat, we offer a yoga style that caters to everybody at IAM Yoga.
Check out our website, give us a call, or drop by our studio to speak to one of our friendly front desk staff.