Farewell, emotions and letting go
Last week I had to say goodbye to my father with pain in my heart. At least to his physical presence here on earth. Besides that I continued to realize how good my yoga practice helps me during such difficult moments, I also saw the parallel with letting go in yoga postures. But yes, yoga is meant to make life off the mat more manageable...
Emotions may come up
Personally, I think that keeping a positive attitude can help a lot in life, but also that emotions have a very functional role. Did you know that the Latin derivative for the word emotion literally means energy in motion? This energy in motion is meant to be felt and to be released (as opposed to suppressing and ignoring, which is a form of 'spiritual bypassing'). But please maintain ahimsa (nonviolence) in this process, both towards yourself and others.
I have tried it too often myself; suppressing emotions. Perhaps precisely because the experience of emotions can be so intense. But eventually, they always do show up again. For example in the form of anxiety or mild depressive feelings. And of course, the timing of this is always at its worst.
Sometimes, the suppression of an emotion is mistaken for letting go. Maybe you have heard someone say it too: "just let it go". But usually if this is done by focusing your attention elsewhere (which can work with monkey mind thoughts), nothing has been done with the emotion and the underlying cause. Before an emotion disappears, it must first be processed. And to process it, it needs time and attention. But the beauty is that if you have processed the emotion, it will let go of you (instead of you letting the emotion go).
However, if you suppress or ignore emotions, they are stored within your body. For example, in the hips, that then become less flexible. The energy is then literally no longer moving and can create blockages in your body.
Eventually, one has to release those emotions. Well, at least if you don’t want those blockages in your way. Or if you no longer want that a small trigger starts big reactions. Or if you literally want more range of motion or want to support your health.
However, if you perceive your emotions as your friend, it becomes a different kind of story. Then, you can use your emotions as a guide. Did you know that the emotional brain responds faster to incoming information or stimuli than our analytical brain (J. Schwartz & S. Begley, 2002)? And the beauty is that paying attention to those emotions (even while this can be time consuming) ultimately is a much faster route than that of emotional suppression. And often much more durable and powerful too.
It is important that you feel safe to be able to deal with your emotions. For me, the yoga mat is always a good place for that. Especially since it is not only a safe place, it’s also a place to move your body including all kinds of energy points. Furthermore, the place on the mat already carves out some me-time. This combination makes it easier to connect with your feelings. A yoga posture that is known for sudden release of emotions is camel pose (ustrasana). Right there, you can use your curiosity to focus your attention on the sensations that you feel, to make optimal use of those moments. As an invitation to let go.
To perceive your emotions as your guide, it helps to get rid of the judgment. Because often we label emotions as good or bad. Understandable because we just feel better at emotions like joy and love than in the case of grief, anger and shame. But it is all just energy in motion that is trying to make something clear to you. And if you listen to that, it is easier to stay close to yourself. In fact, we should be grateful that emotions are part of our human experience (even when tears are coming down at that moment we really didn’t want that to happen).
If you calm your nervous system, it also becomes easier to work with the more difficult emotions. That's where your breathing comes looking around the corner, just like in your yoga class. Often, when someone is very emotional, we are naturally inclined to tell them to take a deep breath. And if you take a deep inhale, you created the possibility to also exhale more (which is releasing). This is because your breath and your energy body are directly connected.
In yoga, we become more and more aware of the things we were unaware of before. This works in a similar way with the processing of emotions. By observing your emotions, you can become more aware of what is underneath your emotions. Why something touches you like that and makes it feel so personal. By looking beyond the trigger itself.
By observing your emotions and thoughts, you can recognize habits and thought patterns (in yoga terms also called kleshas). As if you were a spectator. Instead of a victim. Because of this, it also feels less overwhelming, while you still give space to your emotions. In this way, you work with what is already given and you can give a positive edge to a challenging experience. For a transformation of your emotion into something that is useful. For me, for example, it helps to write a blog that can help others like you.
Good to remind yourself is that an emotion is a feeling, not a fact. Which assumptions and beliefs (which are based on previous experiences) are underneath your emotion? As you observe your emotions, this also become clearer. For example, that there is actually no threat, even if it felt like that. By observing, you can make space to be able to surrender. Surrender to something bigger than yourself. Because surrender can also cause that your emotions will let go of you.
Observing does not mean evaluating your sensations, which is a form of judgment. Can you, on the other hand, tune into the subtle sensations in your body and observe them? By listening instead of judging. Can you do this with a sense of curiosity and compassion? For example, when tears ran down my cheeks during my father's funeral last week, I for example observed that I felt alone for a moment. However, this was a feeling and not a fact: there are so many people that I care about who support me. That realization then gave a warm feeling. And how amazing it felt to receive hugs from such dear friends and family! And yoga ... oh, again I felt so grateful yoga is in my life. Even if only because I knew how to use my breathing to calm my mind. To be able to return to a state of more relaxedness.
If you have the opportunity, savasana can help really good with this relaxation at the end of your emotional process. If not, check what is possible to relax some more.
Curious about some wisdom that I learned from my father? Then check out my previous blog, about gratitude.
Enjoy your Habits© today with love and light!
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