Tuesday 10 October is this year’s World Mental Health Day, so it feels as an appropriate time to mention how the practice of yoga can help with emotional pain. Every time someone tells me they practice yoga, t’ai chi or qigong, I feel happy – and I tell them! To me, it means they are consciously taking care of their own wellbeing. They are bringing awareness to their body, connecting mind, body and breath, making space for a practice that may lead to a calmer mind.
Chapter Six in the ancient book Bhagavad Gita contains four definitions of yoga, and one of them is this one: Yoga is the unlinking of the link with pain. The first time I read this, I thought it was genius! It 100% reflected my own experience with yoga.
I started practicing Hatha yoga 20 years ago but had drifted away from it for various reasons. A very wise therapist I saw at the time of the breakdown of my marriage encouraged me to go back to yoga. I had had a big storm in my head for the previous six months, and was in constant fight and flight mode – I was not at all calm! The first yoga class I went to turned out to be amazing. The teacher asked us to keep the word “ease” in mind for the whole session – I was lucky to get just what I needed. The unexpected feeling of “coming back” to myself as we were sitting up at the end of the class overwhelmed me, and brought tears to my eyes. Driving home that evening, it was as if I could see things in my life as they really were. The class had given me a sense of feeling grounded, and had helped calming the whirlpool of my mind (another yoga definition!). Of course, the storm kept raging on pretty often after that session. However, I now had a practice I could turn to that could bring me back to rest and relax mode, calming my nervous system down, and bringing a sense of calmness to my mind.
We all have our own reasons for coming to yoga, and, like me, some people come to yoga to ease an emotional pain. Sometimes you might even be carrying a pain you are not aware of. And then, once you start practicing regularly, a sense of non-resistance, an untying of a knot, so to speak, will come as a result of the practice. Yoga can truly contribute to freeing yourself from emotional pain.
Next time you are lying down in Savasana, Corpse Pose, the final relaxation at the end of your class, maybe bring your attention to the aliveness of your body, and to how whole and complete you are, simply lying down, breathing. Your body knows how to lie down, your breath knows how to breathe, there is nothing you need to do. And as you are finding yourself there, on the mat, realising that you are at home in your body, right here, and at peace, right now ❤️
I teach yoga in and around Wimbledon Village, you are very welcome to come and try out a class!