Bringing awareness to the emotional heaviness we’ve been carrying around is a necessary step in working through and then effectively releasing those emotions (rather than simply ignoring them).
So, how do we slow down to become reacquainted with ourselves on this deeper level?
Yoga can be the pathway to finding peace in our minds and a calm serenity in our emotions. Being able to use our bodies and our breath as a tool to emotional recovery is a profound healing resource that is completely at our disposal, and theoretically without cost, through the practice of yoga.
When we cultivate mindful awareness of our thoughts, bodies and emotions through our yoga practice, we create more space to work through these emotions in a meaningful, productive and healthy way.
Here are 5 yoga poses that may allow you to release some of that emotional tension in your body.
1. Forward fold, with hands grabbing opposite elbows- Forward folds allow us to physically let everything go, which promotes emotional release as well.
To get into this pose, find a standing posture at the front of your mat and then hinge at the hips, allowing the top half of your body to fall forward. If needed, bend your knees slightly so you can effectively hang in suspension, bent at the hips. Then, grab hold of opposite elbows and gently sway back and forth. Stay here for 10-20 breaths.
2. Humble warrior- Humble warrior serves a dual role as a hip opener and forward fold in one, allowing us to reap the benefits of both.
You can get into humble warrior from a warrior 1 pose. To get into warrior 1 from a standing pose, bring one leg back in a high lunge, with your hands coming to the mat in front of you. From here, you ground your back foot into the mat on a 45-degree angle. Once you find your balance in this posture, your arms will rise up above your head—ensuring that your hips are facing forward and your front, bent knee is directly above your ankle. Once in warrior 1, bring your arms down to your sides and hinge forward at the hips, allowing your chest to find the space between your legs. Your arms can either remain at your side or rise up behind you. Hold this pose for 10-20 breaths and repeat on the other side.
3. Tree pose- Tree pose forces us into stillness, which can bring up a lot of stuff mentally, pushing us to feel the emotions we can otherwise ignore in our hectic lives.
You can move into tree pose from a standing posture. There are a couple of levels of tree pose, so pick the one that feels most comfortable to you. To begin, ground one foot into the mat, focusing on using this foot as your base. Your other foot will pivot out to the side, with the heel of your foot resting on the ankle of your grounded foot. You can stay here, or, if you would like a little more of a challenge, you can bring your foot up to your calf and find balance. Finally, if you would like more of a challenge, you can bring your foot up to rest on your thigh, ensuring that it is not resting on your knee joint. At this point, you can do anything with your hands, but bringing them to prayer in front of your chest can be calming and centering. Remain in tree pose for 10-20 breaths and then balance on the other side.
4. Cat/cow sequence- The fluid and calming motion of this sequence, linking breath to movement, can lead us back into our bodies and out of our minds—allowing our emotions to settle down.
To move into a cat/cow sequence, come to all fours on your mat in a tabletop position. Once here, make sure that your shoulders are above your wrists and your hips are above your knees. From this place, take a deep inhale. On the exhale, round your back into a cat pose, engaging your core and allowing your head to fall. Then, you inhale into cow pose by arching your back and bringing your gaze out in front of you. Move through this sequence at your own pace, linking breath to movement for 10-20 breaths.
If you have never practiced yoga before, these are great poses to introduce when you are feeling emotionally tense and stressed.
If you are a regular yogi, allow yourself to get reacquainted with these poses—using them as an opportunity to slow down and check in with your emotions from time to time.