I looked around the group of usually vibrant, fresh-faced women in my class, and on this day I saw bags under eyes, pale skin, a dullness in their step. A bit of chat established that yes, it had been a big week, everyone was tired and we would tone the class down a little. I left a good 20 minutes at the end for very quiet, passive poses. We lay over bolsters in a supported, open position. I talked through some practices to settle the mind. I watched as one student – Sarah - began to sob. Her body shook gently, but she stayed as she was, quietly letting her emotions come to the fore. She sobbed quietly like that for several minutes.
After the class Sarah spoke openly about some things that were going on in her life that she realised she hadn’t quite come to terms with. She said she needed to process these things and the restorative yoga practice had given her the space to do so.
Sarah was in the newly-established Plus Size Yoga class. The class has been running for some 18 months now and it has become a popular class. It’s not uncommon for stories of life’s difficulties to be shared after class. Sometimes it’s just a chat about day-to-day relationships, other times it’s serious milestones in people’s lives – the death of a child, multiple miscarriages, dealing with challenging children, learning to live as a single mum. These stories are at once heart breaking and uplifting - heartbreaking to hear the pain, uplifting to see people coming to terms with their emotional challenges.
Our bodies hold our emotions. When we begin to move, we begin to shift things. The physical holding that is released will release the emotional holding that it embodies, revealing the vulnerability beneath. Yoga will often show up physical injuries from long ago, but it will also expose, sometimes quite unexpectedly, our emotional state – the scars, the resistance, the give, the balance, the imbalance.
And if our bodies hold our emotions, then in the same way that yoga will expose our emotional weaknesses it will also strengthen our emotional state - through our bodies. Students will often comment that since starting yoga they have found that they are more composed, better able to handle the stress in their lives, have more equanimity; even when their lives are as busy and demanding as they have always been.