The Many Emotional Healing Benefits of Yoga
So what does yoga have to do with energy therapy and emotional healing? Everything! Our physical bodies are the outward manifestation of our subtle energetic bodies. Practicing asanas, or yoga poses, activates the prana in the body and helps move out all the energies and emotions we store in our muscles, body tissues, and even our cells. With the old toxic energies gone, space is opened up for better positive energy to enter.
Practicing asanas also calms our nervous system, sending a message to our brain to switch off the sympathetic nervous system (think STRESS) and turn on the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and healing). This effect is compounded by the simple act of bringing the attention to the breath. Mindful breath quiets mental chatter.
Stepping onto your mat and releasing all that emotional stuff that we no longer need helps prevent emotional traumas from becoming energetically trapped in the body. This is an excellent way to prevent trapped emotions!
Types of Asanas and their Benefits
Twists are cleansing. They literally “wring out” the internal organs, which helps your body release old energy. In an abdominal twist, the internal organs are compressed and squeezed to flush away old deoxygenated blood, which simultaneously sweeps away embedded negative energies. When the twist is released and the body comes back to center, fresh oxygenated blood flows back into the organs renewing and refreshing them, leaving space for higher vibrational and happier energies.
Forward bends are calming. Forward bends calm the nervous system and promote rest. Emotional healing can be hard work, especially during times of releasing the heaviest stuff. This can result in occasional sensitivity, vulnerability, or anxiety. Calming poses alleviate these uncomfortable feelings. Forward bends also release the muscles of the lower back, an area where many people experience tightness and hold emotions. Child’s Pose is especially healing.
Standing poses are grounding and centering. In Mountain, the most basic of standing poses, when you physically plant your feet firmly into the ground and bring your hands together at your heart center, your energetic body follows and that scattered feeling dissipates. This stability sets a solid foundation to help you withstand whatever life throws at you. Standing in Exalted Warrior with the 4 corners of your feet firmly grounded, lifting through your spine and ribcage and reaching up through the fingertips allows you to feel your inner strength and joy brings all your energy to center and sends it crisscrossing through the main central energetic pathway of the body.
Balance poses develop steadiness and stability. Whenever I announce balancing poses in class, a collective groan inevitably ripples through the room. “I don’t like balancing poses, they’re so hard. I wobble.” Balance is crucial for life. When you are in a one-legged pose, you’re concentrating on that grounded foot, focusing on your drishti point, making subtle adjustments, and slightly shifting your weight to keep your balance. That’s all you can think about at that moment in time. Suddenly that to-do list has faded away along with all those worries about your kids, your spouse, your job, your house, your ex, your car, you name it. The subtle adjustments you make to keep your balance and hold the pose mirror the delicate balances of life: strength and weakness, give and take, sadness and joy. When life is in a state of upheaval, (and let’s face it, when isn’t it?) balance poses are just the thing to help you find your center and feel your strength. Leery of standing on one foot? Balance poses don’t have to be super challenging one-legged poses such as Tree, Dancer, or Warrior III; many two-legged poses such as Warrior I and II and Triangle are also balancing poses. Master balancing on two feet before trying to balance on one! Or stand near the wall. Even if you don’t touch the wall, just knowing it is there behind you bolsters confidence and lends stability. Try Half-Moon against the wall – it’s fun.
Inversions enhance your perspective. Anyone ever tell you to turn that frown upside down? That’s exactly how inversions help! Turning yourself upside down changes your perspective so you see things in a whole new way. Physically, inversions bring fresh blood flow to your brain and activate your pituitary gland, which is the master gland in your body. Intimidated by Headstand or Handstand? No problem. Inversions can be as simple as Legs-up-the-Wall Pose or Downward-Facing Dog or Puppy.
Backbends are heart opening. The heart center of the body is swirling with powerful emotion. This is where we feel the deepest emotions from the entire range of the emotional spectrum. If you’ve seen the lovely and impressive Anusara pose Wild Thing, or the Full Wheel Pose, or even Camel, you probably agree that backbends can strike fear into the hearts of yoga newbies and seasoned yogis alike. Backbends don’t have to be that dramatic to work their magic. You will receive the same heart-opening benefits with gentle backbends such as Sphinx, Fish, or Warrior I. It helps to remember that backbends are not something that you “drop into”. Backbends are accomplished by inhaling and fully lengthening the spine and lifting the chest up and floating back. The lungs fill, the front of the ribcage expands and the heart center completely opens. When the heart center opens, we can then intentionally release hurts and traumas with the exhale. The most restful backbends are Reclining Bound Angle Pose or a modification of Legs-up-the-Wall Pose where a folded blanket is placed beneath the spine.
Hip-opening poses release stored emotions. In my experience, most people physically hold emotions in the hip. Many people also have extremely tight hips. This is no coincidence. Hip openers are best when done slowly, sinking down gradually with each exhale. When I was a kid, my favorite story book was about a small pig who liked to sit down and sink down in good soft mud. That’s what comes to mind when I think of the hips: sit down and sink down into a good deep hip opener. Then stay there for a while and let those emotions bubble up. Stay present and fully feel whatever you are feeling without judgment. I find more people quietly sob their way through a long-held Resting Pigeon Pose than any other pose, even Savasana. Not ready for Pigeon? Sit quietly in Cobbler’s Pose. Ahhh… doesn’t it feel better to just release all that baggage?
Savasana is restorative. Yet some people struggle with lying with stillness and quiet. They twitch and wiggle. They adjust and readjust. They open their eyes and glance around as though they may miss out on something. And by denying themselves this full relaxation, they miss out on the thing they most need: serenity. Let your hands rest palms-up, in receiving position, and let your body be heavy, fully releasing and melting into the mat. The final resting pose of Savasana allows your body to assimilate all the good space that you have created by doing yoga.
Visit my photo gallery of yoga poses for emotional healing. Yoga Pose Gallery
Shanti, shanti, shanti. Peace, peace, peace. May there be peace in your heart, peace in your life, and peace in your world.
Namaste ~ The divinity in my soul bows to the divinity in your soul.