Emotions Experienced in the Body

Written by: Marni Levitt

I remember my body dropping several flights in a split second on the ride at Disney World. The ride was called ‘The Drop’ or something like that, and simulated an extremely sharp elevator drop. My stomach was up, several meters higher than the rest of my body, which dropped down sharply – all of a sudden. A thrill, an unpleasant feeling, scary – all depending on how you perceived it. For me, it was both scary and unpleasant. I have felt that feeling in my stomach many times – but not on a Disney World ride – rather, in daily life situations that feel scary or stressful. I feel like my stomach is dropping down – almost right out of my body. (The opposite of my body dropping down, and stomach in the air, but similar feeling nonetheless). I have felt like that many times at work, in stressful moments.

I am sure many people experience similar physical experiences of emotions. ‘I have butterflies in my stomach’; ‘I have cold feet’; ‘my heart is broken’, ‘you make me sick’, ‘I am listening to my gut, and something just doesn’t feel right’. If you resonate with any of these expressions, or feelings, you may have a sense that our language reflects our lived experience and reality.

With the recent scientific validation of mindfulness and yoga, through studies and neuroscience, it is easy to start believing that emotions and feelings happen between your ears, in your head (ie. in your brain). In Eastern thought (where yoga and mindfulness originate), the mind is considered a mystery. Who is the one who is knowing and experiencing? Western science takes this ‘self’ for granted, Eastern traditions question and wonder about it.

I wonder how many people experience their emotional reality inside of their heads? Through my years of mindfulness meditation experience, and practise of yoga, in addition to work with a psychotherapist – I have learned to be aware of, and identify the feelings in my body; in this way, my body has become my emotional compass, leading me to wellness. For example, when my chest and throat start to feel tight, it is likely that I am experiencing sadness or grief. When I tune into this experience (either through mindfulness meditation, or just being aware as I go about my day), I can then work with it, be present with it, and that is when it often starts to transform, or loosen, and I get some relief from the pain. Identifying my physical experience of emotions – or physical processing of emotions, has made a world difference for me, on a practical, daily basis.

I have been able to navigate life and work, and improve my mental health and wellness in leaps and bounds.

According to Wikipedia, Pali (Pāli) is a Prakrit language native to the Indian subcontinent. It is widely studied because it is the language of many of the earliest extant literature of Buddhism. The Pali-English Dictionary suggests citta is heart / mind, and emphasizing it is more the emotive side of mind as opposed to manas, as the intellect or mind-sense in the sense of what grasps mental objects (dhammas). From the cultures that gave birth to mindfulness practices now transforming the West, there is a different understanding of mind than that assumed by modern, Western, scientific concepts. The heart is in the body, the body experiences emotions. The more traditional (and time-tested) practices such as mindfulness and yoga have an understanding of mind that includes the heart. This conception certainly resonates with my life experience – and being in touch with my body (and therefore emotions) has only improved my life and relationships. Being aware of the body, and of feelings, is the first step to working with those feelings – and often, mitigating or limiting a fight-or-flight stress response.

There are scientific studies on just about everything now – which is great, as it helps give a certain validity to fields or practices previously considered marginal (in modern Western context). More and more people are turning to these types of supports, in search of practical solutions to exponentially-increasing stress and distractions modern life. People are flocking to yoga and mindfulness meditation retreats in droves. Parents are finding help for issues that previously seemed unsolvable for their kids. I know that I have made a scientific study of my own life: about 99.9% of the time, when I am feeling a great deal of stress about something, after a yoga class, whatever problem seemed insurmountable before class, suddenly feels workable – and often I feel at peace. Wow.

Just like magic. My mind (and emotions) became calm because of actions I did with my body and breath. Hopefully with the logic of science, and the art of being aware of feelings – we can start to connect with a broader canvas of human experience: one that includes the head, the heart, the body, and therefore our entire being. I believe that’s where we will find long-term solutions for the pervasive ailments of modern living.


Move-N-Music is offering ‘mind-FUN-ness’ customized small group coaching sessions to introduce the concept of mindfulness in a fun, hands-on, engaging way.  For more information, please email marni@move-n-music.com
Every Sunday Morning near St.Clair and Oakwood in Toronto

April 3, 10, 17, 24, May 1, 8, 2016
9:30am – 10:30am
For ages: 5-8

Find out more about Marni’s programs by checking out her website; www.move-n-music.com

Marni Levitt B.A.(Hons.), OCT, RYT
Founder Move-N-Music
Arts & Wellness Educator,
Animator, Speaker

1-416-910-3114
Skype: Marni.Levitt1
marni@move-n-music.com
www.move-n-music.com

Photo in article from Move-N-Music Family mind-FUN-ness day in Toronto – Feb.2016.

How Yoga Can Get You Through Grief and Sadness

From DoYouYoga, by Kathy Kruger

 

Have you ever cried in a yoga class and felt that rush of relief? I bawled like a baby during Yin yoga training last year in a two and a half hour class that went deep — which it turns out was exactly where I needed to go.

Maybe you’ve shed a few silent tears in the midst of a dynamic flow class, the trickle seeming to flow with the Vinyasa and the breath.

Perhaps you’ve choked back tears in a Child’s Pose or deep into a Forward Bend — afraid of the waterworks releasing, swallowing hard.

Crying During Yoga
Crying during a yoga practice may be all very well at home, but many of us don’t like to allow ourselves to be so vulnerable surrounded by strangers (or friends) in a class situation, even though it may be exactly what we need to do.

We may know that vulnerability is the Yin to the Yang of a strong yoga practice, but it can be kind of embarrassing — that’s if we don’t leave our egos at the classroom door.

If you can suspend your ego, yoga can be a safe place to sit with sadness or move with and through grief, anchored in breath and bringing awareness to the body and away from whatever loss you are experiencing, whatever is causing pain.

You have the choice of “truly, madly, deeply” feeling the sadness and grief in your body, or of transmuting it through breath and awareness into a sense of peace.

Either way, if you can use yoga to help you feel pain more, or to feel it less, you will be on the way to healing.

Here are a few tips on practicing to help you heal.

1. Accept Your Emotional State
It can be easy to talk yourself out of a yoga or meditation practice because you are feeling down, and especially if you are grieving. But yoga doesn’t ask us to be in one mood or another in order to practice.

We can come to yoga sad, stressed, frustrated, even angry and we have the opportunity to re-set. Sure sadness and loss can’t be fixed as easily as a bad mood (and depression is a variable condition often requiring different treatments), but then yoga doesn’t promise a quick fix but a lifelong friendship.

2. Use Breath
Well of course — it is everything in yoga, but especially when we are sad and likely to be feeling sluggish.

Maybe a strong Power yoga class is going to require more energy than you can muster in your depressed state, or maybe it’s exactly what you need (forgetting about things for a while isn’t so bad). Generally a slower sequence of asana with plenty of opportunity for breath focus is going to help you direct your breath towards healing and channel emotional release.

3. Open Your Heart Chakra
Deep back bending postures like Camel open and expose your heart chakra — which can be hard, but also very healing.

While you might feel anger in your gut, or get a hot head, you are most likely to feel sadness around your heart. Metaphorically, I envisage sadness sitting on my shoulders, hunching them, weighing me down. Grief can settle in between the shoulder blades at the back of your heart, stuck there so you literally can’t straighten your shoulders. You may also lock loss and heartache within your rib cage, as though it can protect you from getting hurt again.

A heart-opening Yin yoga class may be perfect (or it may be overwhelming). Try Anahata asana and allow yourself to expose the back of your heart — to be vulnerable. We can’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable if we haven’t accepted that sadness can be the result — and acceptance is always the path to letting go.

4. Dwell in the Present
Yoga always provides this opportunity without being a negative distraction (such as too much shopping to cheer you up, or too much alcohol to numb you).

Grief and sadness are always rooted in the past (and sometimes stuck there through regret, or a lack of forgiveness). If things happened in the past to make you sad, if you have suffered a loss, then reliving these events is never going to allow you to get beyond them. At the same time, if you are depressed about the future, then dwelling there is never going to give you hope.

Time may be the ultimate healer, but yoga enables you to surrender a little more of the past to dwell in the present.

5. Allow Yourself to Cry
If tears come, don’t be afraid. You don’t have to be a Warrior all the time!

If we allow it, yoga can remind us that we are not the events that happen to us, the losses we suffer, the emotions we feel, or the thoughts that swim in our heads.

Sadness sits on the surface. Grief and loss, even when they run deep, still can’t hurt us at the level of our eternal and universal souls.

The tears you shed cannot disturb the stillness deep inside you. Pass the Kleenex.