Yoga and Managing Emotions

Yoga and emotions? YES. Big time!

As I wrote about yoga and letting go and opening up before, yoga is there for you at any state of mind in this very moment, but especially in times of transition, sadness, loss, or loneliness.. Or as Brigitte Meinders put it in one of her articles:

“Yoga is like an old friend that is there to hug you if you feel down, stand by your side if you are nervous or afraid, and egg you on to push your limits if you are feeling at your best. It is always there.” 

Showing emotions can be a tough one sometimes. The funny thing is that we all assume to be generally accurate in showing and expressing our emotions, however, truth is that we emotions overrule our rational behavior and can bring us in a lot of trouble.

The good news is: emotions come and go, just like good and bad times in life. It’s like the sinus curve or bell-shape of life with its ups and downs. The saying “Don’t make a permanent decision on your temporary emotion.” is surely correct and has saved me from saying something in a moment of anger that I would’ve (most likely) regretted a little later.

Emotions are stronger drivers of behavior than logic

There are two kinds of emotions: primary and secondary emotions. A primary emotion is what the person actually feels and the secondary emotion refers to what the person shows on the outside to others. For example, when someone is yelling at you, the primary emotion might be fear of losing control over a business deal, feeling helpless, not supported enough, or even inadequate. However, the person shows those feelings (secondary emotions) through anger and screaming at you.

 

“Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

Yoga is a wonderful way to re-learn how to show, express and control our emotions, as well as to help us release those emotions again.

Do you remember the last time you were angry or simply upset about something or someone? How did you feel? Have you felt an inner urge to move or just walk away?

When we are angry or upset, our brain switches over to fight-or-flight response, which is an automatic physiological reaction to a perceived dangerous situation, including stress and anxiety. In this response causes the release of (among others) our stress hormone cortisol, as well as catecholamine hormones like adrenalin (epinephrine) and noradrenalin (norepinephrine). All of them are providing us with energy to facilitate immediate physical reactions.

So, what have you done to come down again and “leave” the fight-or-flight response? Maybe you took a walk? Or, if you’ve done yoga before, you did some yoga poses and felt better? No matter what helped you, I’m assuming it was something most likely related to movement.

There are certain yoga poses that help you especially in certain situations, to help you manage your emotions through movement. If you feel …

  • Down and need ENERGY: sun salutation, and backward bends like cobra, bow, wheel, and warrior pose
  • Angry, anxious and need to CALM DOWN, RELEASE AND LET GO: childs pose, forward bend, folding leg plough, inverted pose, supported headstand
  • Stressed and need to get your BALANCE back: cat pose, cow pose, corpse pose
  • Super tense and need to RELEASE STRONG EMOTIONS IMMEDIATELY: roaring lions pose
  • “Like the world is on your shoulders” and need CALMNESS, ACCEPTANCE, RELIEF: restorative poses like supported legs up the wall, pond pose, sleeping thunderbolt, sleeping bound angle pose, and tortoise
  • Tired and need to increase AWARENESS: : salutation seal, easy pose, extended puppy pose, seated forward bend
  • “Under the weather,” struggle with a headache and need RELEASE: head-to–knee forward bend or seated spinal twist (for advanced yogis)

As you can see, yet again, there are many ways how yoga can heal and support your mental and physical well-being. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly encourage you. And no worries, yoga is versatile and for everybody. No matter what age, size, height, religion (or non-religion), or flexibility level you are. Yoga is not about that. Yoga is about making YOU feel good, and reminding you to listen to your body again.

So GET YOGILATED :) It’s worth it.

Further readings:
Brain research and yoga: HERE
Fight or Flight Response: HERE and HERE

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