Have you ever found yourself suddenly crying during yoga practice? While some people have experienced this spontaneous occurrence on occasion, others are intentionally seeking it out. Classes are popping up to meet this need, designed to trigger emotional release through extreme movement exercises, verbalizations, low lighting and/or cleverly orchestrated soundtracks.
Some of these classes don’t just create a safe space for letting a few tears drop on your mat—they are meticulously choreographed to facilitate an intense letting go. At one class in Manhattan, participants are encouraged to sweat, scream and cry out their emotions. Another NYC class, Yoga for Getting Over It, offers two hours of poses designed to help people integrate and continue on. For those that participate in these classes, it is a form of therapy. It gives them a space to release pent up emotions they don’t feel safe expressing in other parts of their lives, and they leave not only feeling the benefits of yoga, but also the calm that often comes after emotional release.
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There is evidence that yoga can help people move past trauma and destructive habits through physiologic movement. Past pain or trauma can manifest physically in the tissues, but when stretch our muscles, fresh oxygen is delivered to the tissues and waste is released. Through yoga, we literally breathe new life into our tissues. For some, the issues stored there are no longer at the forefront of consciousness, yet the release can be felt—often in the form of those mysterious, spontaneous tears.
Whether or not you know where it’s coming from, a good cry every now and then is beneficial. It helps to release stress hormones and removes potentially pathogenic bacteria from our system. After crying, the heart rate is usually lowered and the breathing slowed, which can contribute to a sense of peacefulness.
While seeking out a class that encourages extreme emotional release isn’t in everyone’s comfort zone, it is important to realize that sometimes a class will bring emotions to the surface, and it’s okay to let yourself experience them. While spontaneously screaming in a class not specifically designed for this type of expression may cause some alarm, most seasoned instructors aren’t going to be thrown off by a few tears.