It happened. I had been warned, by many, that it was bound to happen to me, to everyone, but I never really believed them. I had even seen it happen to other people, and I thought–no way not me. But alas…
I cried in a yoga class.
And I don’t mean just gettin’ a little teary eyed. I’m talking globs, puddles almost, of tears, of snot, of sweat–splattering on to my yoga mat like a Jackson Pollock painting.
It happened towards the end of class, while holding the most notorious of the tear-jerking yoga poses–pigeon pose. This one stretches deep in the hips, the place where we store a lot of emotion, stress, memories, baggage.
This was a very sad experience for me. I’ve heard some people describe their yoga-induced sob fest as cleansing, refreshing, freeing, but I did not feel any of these things. I just felt sad, even in the days proceeding the class. But it was a different kind of sad than usual…it was a sad that I was okay with being.
At first, I tried really hard to figure out why the whole thing happened. What was I sad about? Was it some tragedy or unresolved feelings that I had stifled deep down? Was I missing my family? Was I scared about the future? Was I just tired?
Why the hell did yoga make me cry?
It turns out that there is tons of research on how we store emotional experiences in our bodies, especially from when we are young. The theory goes something like when we are children, we aren’t capable of mentally handling traumatic experiences, so we instead store them in our physical bodies.
But this, I realized, was not the interesting part of my experience. What I was more curious about was the kind of sad I was feeling. I was, for the first time, okay with it. I’m not going to go as far as saying that I liked being sad or enjoyed it, but…almost.
I brought this sadness home with me to California while I was visiting for a few days. It wasn’t depressing or hindering, and my family didn’t notice. It just gave me a few days to myself, to listen to music, to go climbing, to read and write. A few days of calm, introversion. The sadness slowed me down, a lot. I felt super weird for actually not minding being sad. I thought I was, ya know, going crazy.
I was fortunate enough to climb with a very talented climber while I was home. I asked him how he stays so motivated to practice every day, how he doesn’t get bored, how he keeps loving the sport more and more as he grows older. He told me that he loves climbing because every day his body has something different to offer–whether it be anger, sadness, frustration, bravery, strength, energy, a sense of calm. He said that whatever it is he is feeling that day, he climbs that way, and enjoys it. Because tomorrow, that feeling will most likely be gone.
Isn’t it funny how the universe just kind of hands you exactly what you’re needing? What I was needing in that moment was to hear what this guy had to say.
Fleeting. That was the word that was stuck in my head after I got done climbing that day. His words were more than just really good advice–underneath them, in his very last sentence, he said something key. The feelings will be gone. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in the next second. Who knows–they are here now though, we might as well be okay with them. Hell–we could even use them, to our advantage..ya know…kind of what I had been doing…with my sadness…all week long. And I was thinking I was a complete weirdo for it.
Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. -Joan Didion
If I know one thing to be true, it is that everything changes. Especially emotions. Emotions are so much more insignificant than we give them credit for, especially the bad emotions. When we are sad, we feel that we will always be sad, stuck in that sadness, doomed to live a life full of shitty things forever more. When we are happy, we feel that it will never leave, and that we are finally done with that negative part of life, that nothing shitty will ever touch us again. But this is not life. We will never see the day where we get sad and stay sad forever, nor will we one day be happy and keep being happy for all of eternity.
It’s all fleeting.
Once we understand that emotions and situations are not going to be that way forever, they will loosen their grip on our minds. It’s called detachment, my friends. It has been, by far, the hardest thing for me to learn in yoga training. This is probably because our society is the most attached of all people in existence.
When we don’t give our emotions permission to feel so important, so everlasting, we can actually use them to our advantage–yes, even the not-so-fun ones. When you are sad, isn’t there a sense of calm that comes with it? Use that. Be calm. When you are angry, isn’t there a sense of strength and energy that comes with that? Use that–responsibly, effectively.
And then of course, there is the feeling of being content. Being okay with all of it. I have learned that you can be content and sad, or angry, or confused, simultaneously. Fleeting is a good word to remember.
Being happy all of the time cannot exist. Without sadness there is no happiness, and thank God for that. Sometimes, rose colored glasses can start to hurt your eyes.
So whatever you are feeling, be okay with it. Sometimes that is harder said than done, but don’t we all know, from personal, hands on experience that emotions never stay around so long that they kill us? Don’t we know, that if even for a second, we will be happy again?
Detach, detach, detach.
Crying in a yoga class did turn out to be a freeing experience. I just had to wait a little to feel that way about it.