The famous line in ‘A League of Their Own’ is that Tom Hanks tells one of his female players in a shocked voice, ‘there is no crying in baseball’. I would actually argue that there is a lot of space for crying in sports- just think about any championship game you’ve ever seen; The Superbowl, Wimbledon Final- many times on both sides of the court.
Yoga is a different type of game/ sport. There’s plenty of space for crying, but it’s coming from a different place. Less about the exuberance or relief of achievement, it’s releasing something from the inside that hasn’t had the space to move. For me, there is usually something going on inside me not far from the surface. The business and activity of my regular routine gives me plenty of opportunities to be distracted and not to allow those feelings to rise to the surface. I am effectively keeping a lid on them and preventing the messiness from escaping. What changes in the yoga practice is that all the distractions are removed and there becomes no buffer between me and myself.
It doesn’t always happen quickly. Yoga is designed to use the physicality of the body as an access to the mind and spirit- something deeper. The practice gives us time to settle in, work through the layers of physical and mental resistance and hopefully arrive in savasana (deep rest) at the end fully present and able to be with whatever is. Sadness, joy- either can create a reaction during that final pose. I recently went to practice knowing how close my emotions were to the surface- there had been a lot of sadness and loss around me and I was managing it in my head. I was rationalizing, interpreting and explaining it all to myself so it wouldn’t seem so beyond comprehension. Maybe I could intellectualize these situations out of being just so so sad.
The very first pose is one of becoming still, with one hand on the heart and one hand on the stomach. That was all it took- the simple act of connecting my hands to my body and stopping the business of my day for 30 seconds was enough to allow all the emotions to rise to the surface and begin to stream out of my eyes. The first pose of practice. This must have been some type of yoga breakdown record. Letting that out early actually helped me to move forward more clearly in my practice. I didn’t have to use my energy to tamp down what was trying to come up.
Another expression we use is that someone ‘has a lot on their mind’. I think a more accurate expression would be that someone has a lot on their heart. Because that’s really what we’re talking about. No matter what the situation is that is unsettling the mind- what’s really happening is that there is something weighing in some way on our hearts. That’s what yoga gives us access to. I can tightly manage my thinking to keep myself in one piece. Until I can’t. When given that opportunity to stop managing everything in my head and get present to the bigger truth, those emotions can’t wait to rise to the surface and move through.
There is nothing like a good yoga cry on the mat. It’s a release of real truth. Those tears don’t need to be explained, they just need to come out. The mat and the practice allow a safe space for emotions to move out and even physically free up the body.