Watching what is and staying present with feelings isn’t always easy.
Early in her yoga teacher training journey, Nina Bernardin journaled about a class she’d just taken, “I was triggered like crazy tonight. So many emotions I can hardly keep track.”
It was a puzzling response to what many might view as just an exercise class. But yoga isn’t just about bodily exercise; it’s a mindful practice involving the head AND the heart.
And Nina isn’t alone in her experience of sudden, seemingly ‘out of the blue’ emotional responses to meditation and asana in yoga class. I do, too. I was curious to find out why and how this happens to people who regularly practice yoga and meditation.
Why do emotions arise when students practice yoga?
Practicing yoga reveals what is happening inside us, what we are already feeling. Sometimes it’s pleasant and sometimes it’s painful.
How do we handle them when they arise within us?
We can use the yoga practice to feel what is — to focus on the unfolding of the present moment. Keeping a journal of not just the physical experience but what goes through their minds and their emotional states can be helpful.
How do yoga teachers handle the emotional uprisings of their students during class—particularly tears?
By being with others without judgment, opening our hearts, allowing the other to have whatever experience they are having, and by being fully present. It’s important for teachers to neither comment on nor try to “help” a student through any release. The moment we become helpers, we become hinderers. Our role is to simply hold the space and simply let the student be with it fully.
What can we learn from the emotional responses our minds and hearts give us when practicing yoga?
We can learn to listen deeply and to meditate on that which is arising. Even if it’s painful or difficult, we can remember that we are not here to try to change ourselves. We are here to meet ourselves where we are, and to accept ourselves as we are.
Writer: Dianne Ochiltree is a graduate of Yoga from the Heart’s Teacher Training Program, a 200-hour RYT with the Yoga Alliance, and has happily served as Lynn Burgess’s teaching assistant at weekly gentle yoga classes for Parkinson’s disease students. She is also a children’s author and freelance editor (www.dianneochiltree.com).