Releasing Emotions In The Body
“The body is the most reliable truth meter.” – Adyashanti
Recently, I found myself in tears during a yoga class. It was near the end, and as I tried to keep my face down as I rolled up my mat, I felt the teacher come and stand near me, lending supportive energy as she chatted with another student. I knew she had noticed my upset and probably recognized it for what it was – a timely release.
As the teacher had recently explained, certain poses, especially hip openers, can release emotions we’ve been holding onto. Fear, trauma, grief, anxiety, depression – all these murky feelings get stuffed down from our eyes when we do not cry, our throats when we do not scream, our hearts when they break and settle in our hips. That day, I was overwhelmed with grief about my father, who passed nine months ago. So although I understand the stages of grief will go on for a while, and the feelings of sadness were not daily anymore, my body released more grief in that class, and I felt better because of it.
The Body as an Emotional Silo
Yoga teachers and massage therapists will tell you they see this all the time. Our bodies are silos, storing all of our past experiences and present worries. When we are able to find ways to release, in supportive environments, we let go of some of that stored “grain”. The combination of physical adjustments with a more neutral, relaxed mental state allows these emotions to be liberated.
“If we do not work on all three levels – body, feeling, mind – the symptoms of our distress will keep returning, as the body goes on repeating the story stored in its cells until it is finally listened to and understood.” – Alice Miller
In this quote, Alice Miller is expressing what science is coming to understand. Peter Levine, Ph.D. (In An Unspoken Voice), and Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. (The Body Keeps the Score) researched and explored the reality that much of our trauma is held in our bodies, and with this knowledge lies hope for releasing it as well!
Just think about how much we hold in. We are taught from a young age to hold. We hold onto uncomfortable emotions caused by abuses and traumas we suffer as children, showing the world a face that says everything is okay. We hold it together as we grow, facing cruelty at school, disappointments and broken hearts. We hold our breath, sometimes not daring to breathe deeply out of fear or sorrow, sometimes not breathing at all if the terror or grief is too great. We hold still, not wanting to call attention to what we see is our broken self. We hold back tears – so many tears that we are certain we would drown those around us if we let them go.
Laws of physics would tell us that this holding has to release at some point. And we see it in all its unhealthy forms – illness (turning it inward) and violence (turning outward). The challenge then, for us, is to find healthy ways to release it from our physical being.
How to Release
Yoga, massage, reiki, and other somatic forms of healing are wonderful but can be costly. You can also find release in a soothing bath, an intense workout, vigorous dancing, tactile art, or a project that requires physical exertion. There are many ways to loosen what you are holding onto. Find what feels right for you, and know that different kinds of emotions may need different kinds of release.
“The cure for the pain is in the pain.” – Rumi
When it comes to releasing what we are holding onto, we must also allow ourselves to be held where it is safe. If you have a supportive partner or friend, let that person hold you while you cry and release. Being held by the right person for the right purpose is profoundly healing. And most importantly, in your own private space allow yourself to be held in God’s love, wrapped up in Divine comfort, and sink down into that place where only Love exists, and let go. God will hold you, God will hold space with you for all those feelings to let go, and God will eventually help you back up.
“Love falls to earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted. Love pulls people back to their feet. Bodies and souls are fed. Bones and lives heal. New blades of grass grown from charred soil. The sun rises.” – Anne Lamott
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