It’s not unusual for emotions to arise during yoga practice, particularly during poses that open the hips. Your hips tend to be a place where you will store negative emotions such as stress and guilt. Don’t be surprised if you feel a range of emotions during hip-opening poses. If you experience an emotional release during class, embrace these breakthrough moments that ultimately will lead you closer to union of mind, body and spirit -- one definition of yoga.
Hip openers can occur throughout practice, and there are certain poses that are more likely than others to elicit emotional responses. Common hip-opening poses include Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana), Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana), Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana) and Warrior Pose II (Virabhadrasana II). Half Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) is one of the deepest hip openers and frequently inspires the release of deep-seated emotions for yoga practitioners.
If you feel an emotional release brewing, acknowledge the feeling without judgment. You need not ask yourself to “change” your body, because yoga teaches acceptance of your physical, mental and spiritual self just as you are. Dr. Richard Miller, a yogi and licensed psychologist, states in a June 2010 “Yoga Journal” article that this self-acceptance leads to natural changes and spiritual growth rather than forced change.
To cope with an emotional release, focus on your breath. Notice the area in your body where you feel tightness, and imagine sending energy into that area with every breath. It also may help to repeat a mantra in your head as you breathe, such as “I am strong.” Turn to the mantra anytime during hip openers or at any point in practice when you need extra support.
Don’t be disappointed if you don't experience an emotional release. Rather, notice any areas of your body where you feel ongoing pain. Each time you come to your mat for practice, breathe healing energy into these areas. Even if you don't wind up in tears during your practice, your focused attention on areas in need of attention will guide you toward self-healing.
Your yoga teacher only can take you so far in yoga practice. She is there to guide you, not to counsel you. If a hip opener or any other yoga pose inspires an emotional release that you feel you cannot work through on your own, consult with a mental health professional.
Karen Spaeder began her editorial career at Entrepreneur magazine. True to the entrepreneurial spirit, she works at a startup digital marketing firm, blogs at karenspaeder.com, teaches yoga and runs her own organic beauty business. Spaeder holds degrees in English and certifications in yoga, karate and early childhood education.