It was in December 1995 that I first came to London. Since then I have been back and forth more times than I can remember. Travelling the world, seeing new places, finding new experiences. The reasons I kept coming back to London were always different...Family, friends, work, love, and the reasons to leave much the same but whether I was coming or going the underlying feeling was always the same, there had to be something else, something more...something, someplace that would make me happy. The feeling that somewhere in the world existed the place that would be perfect for me. A place where I would be happy.
More often than not we look to the outside world for what we are missing inside. We seek out the people, the places and the things we feel we are missing only to discover that once obtained we only feel better for a while before the gnawing feeling starts to creep back in and we feel no better, no happier than before. So we aim bigger, better, we aim for more…but the feeling is still there until we turn the gaze back onto ourselves. For years I was running, looking, searching for the change that I so deeply desired only to find that nothing lasted. When we live for the outside world nothing will last. When we put the key to our happiness in someone else's pocket it is not truly ours.
Last year I took 4 months off work to travel and I knew that when I got back nothing would be the same. I didn’t know what or how but I knew something would change and as much as I tried to think, plan and figure out what it was that Universe had in stall for me I couldn’t see it. Not until I stopped trying to figure it out, not until I stopped trying to make a plan, not until I stopped, became still and I listened did I hear the answer. Something telling me that it is time, it is time to move on. I don’t have a plan but I have trust and I have faith. Trust that everything will reveal itself and faith that events will happen that will guide me forward.
After countless trips to charity shops and other places I have reduced my belongings and packed up what remains. I have bought my ticket and I am ready to go. It is with a mixture of unbelievable excitement and also a sadness that I in 5 weeks leave London for what might be the last time. Sure I will visit but my book of London is now at its end. Leaving behind amazing friends and awesome people that have crossed my path over the years. However far away I go they will always be with me close to my heart.
Some people might say that I am crazy and those who know me the best will say that that is not too far from the truth. When I first started to practice yoga I did it for the physical reasons, to heal from injury. But I realise now that my physical injury was only a manifestation of the emotional injuries I had caused to myself for so many years. We are not what we can see with the naked eye, we are not the shape of our body or the colour of our skin. We are not our thoughts or the actions manifested from those thoughts. What we are goes far beyond the business of our minds and it is only when we stop or are forced to stop that we can truly see. Yoga has taught me to look within. To see Me and what makes Me happy. To see my own truth and to be able to follow and listen to the true voice inside. Do I need to know what comes next? The answer is no.
I am not saying that giving up on what you have is the way to go forward. We all have our own truth and our own path to follow. This is my voice, you have your own. We just need to listen to our own hearts.
I’m know I’m not the only person who has cried during savasana, the final resting pose during yoga, or even felt anger inexplicably rise during practice. The emotional release we feel keeps many of us coming back for more.
An earlier Modern Yogi post revealed the science behind how the body stores emotions, and this is a follow-up, exploring where specific emotions accumulate and how to clear them through the physical practice of yoga. Many eastern practices link emotions to specific organs or body parts, and interestingly, the organs correlate to yoga’s chakra system.
Targeting specific areas can help clear stubborn blocks and support your ongoing quest for emotional freedom. Of course, the journey is not only a physical one, but this post focuses on this physical aspect.
Grief lingers in the lungs
When we cry really hard, we may release gasping sobs, or when we talk about emotions during a depression, we may say something like “I feel like I can’t breathe.”
The lungs are also associated with taking in the new and releasing the old. If we’re grieving, we have a hard time with both. Letting go and moving on.
The idea of lungs holding onto grief is commonly found in Chinese medicine, but from a yoga perspective, the lungs are associated with the heart chakra, the fourth chakra, related to love. When we grieve, our hearts hurt. We lost something we loved. When our hearts are open, we’re able to ride the flow of life.
Tips for releasing grief in the heart through yoga:
Practice backbends. Try a passive backbend by rolling up a blanket, towel or yoga mat and placing it underneath the shoulder blades, at bra strap level. Lay here for any amount of time you wish, preferably five or 10 minutes.
Kundalini yoga works very deep in the body’s glands for moving emotions. Here is a kriya (set of exercises) for opening up the heart chakra. Also check out YouTube for Kundalini videos focusing on the fourth chakra.
Meditate while visualizing a ball of light at the heart chakra. Imagine it burning away all the residue and clearing blockages with its incredible light.
Anger gunks up the liver
Anger’s connection to the liver is also found in both Chinese medicine and yoga. The liver cleans the blood and stores energy. And when someone is really angry, we say her blood is boiling.
In yoga, the liver is related to the third chakra, in the belly. This is the seat of will and power. Often when we’re angry, it’s because we feel we’ve been wronged, and feel powerless against that wrong.
To cleanse the liver and balance the third chakra:
Practice twists to wring out the internal organs
Poses that fire up the third chakra and encourage balance include stretch pose. Lie on your back and lift the legs, head and shoulders about six inches off the ground. Begin the breath of fire, inhaling and exhaling rapidly.
This kundalini yoga DVD, Lighten Up and Purify by Ana Brett and Ravi Singh, has an amazing set to help you detoxify. One set is called Love Your Liver. The exercises are deceptively simple and really powerful.
Holding on tightens the hamstrings
The hamstrings are connected to our ability to let go and trust, which makes sense because they’re linked to forward folds — postures of surrender. They’re also connected to fear — we often grip the hamstrings when entering fight or flight mode, which makes sense if the body is preparing to run off to safety.
If we tend to want to control life, we may have tight hamstrings. Some people also say the hamstrings are related holding ourselves back in some way, holding back our power, creativity, or fullness of self-expression out of fear.
Freeing the hamstrings requires focusing on that difficult balance between letting go of control while putting ourselves out into the world with full trust that life will take us where we need to go.
To release the hamstrings:
Practice forward folds, poses of surrendering. You may also want to combine these folds with practices that strengthen the third chakra, the power center, which is the fire of will and self-determination.
Worry clogs the spleen
The spleen is related to the liver. It helps to filter blood and supports the body’s immune system. Energetically, it also holds worry. Fortunately, worry dissipates much more quickly than the other, stickier emotions like anger and grief.
Reduce worry and support spleen health by:
Meditating to reduce rumination and worry.
Chant mantras to reduce anxiety.
Try this kundalini kriya: Sit cross-legged on the floor, with your arms bent and hands on the shoulders, fingers wrapped around. Inhaling, twist to the left, exhale and twist to the right. Inhale while thinking “sat” and exhale while thinking “nam.” Close the eyes and twist about 26 times.
Hips are an emotional junk drawer
The hips hold a variety of emotions, from stress to sadness to trauma. They’re the epicenter of the second chakra, which is the energy center related to emotions. In the U.S. many people have chronically tight hips, partially because we sit a lot and partially because our culture is scared of emotion.
To release the hips:
Practice hip-openers like the warrior poses, goddess pose and pigeon. Check YouTube for hip-opening sequences.
Move the hips in circles. Dance. Shake.
Get up and walk around frequently during the day.
Shoulders hold stress
This is probably a no-brainer, but I feel like the shoulders are under-appreciated while everyone focuses on heart-openers and hips. If you’re ever feeling stressed or worried, I recommend spending five or 10 minutes opening up the shoulders. It really helps release a lot of tension.
Some awesome shoulder openers are:
Down puppy: From all fours, press the hands a few inches out in front of you until you can lower the chest down toward the ground as you would in down dog. You can also bend your elbows and place the triceps on a table. Let gravity loosen the shoulders, taking care not to press, just allowing the gradual opening.
Elbow stretch: Lift both arms up toward the sky. Bend the left arm, and clasp the right arm just above the elbow. Send the right arm down toward the floor, bringing the stretch into the left shoulder. Repeat on the other side.
Also check out this body map courtesy of Centripetal Force Studio that links areas of pain to specific thoughts and emotional states.
First time I tried Yin Yoga was in December 2013 and I absolutely fell in love with it. The long holds, the deeps stretch, the long Shavasana at the end...I didn't want the class to end.
When I did my teacher training I was lucky to have the opportunity to train in both Yin and Yang yoga. Having the deeper knowledge of the body as a whole and the mind body connection has really helped me to benefit more from my yoga practice and helped me to find a balance both on and off my mat.
Yin Yoga is based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang, the opposite and complementary principles in nature. Yin is the feminine, the moon, the stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things; yang is the male, the sun, the changing, moving, revealing aspect. As opposites one cannot exist without the other. They are forever interchangable...and there will always be an element of yin within yang and yang within yin. Other yin-yang polarities include cold-hot, down-up, calm-excited.
Most styles of yoga works on the mobile and pliable yang tissues in the body (muscles and blood). Yin Yoga targets the Yin tissues - also known as the connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, fascia), These tissues respond best to a slow, steady load. If you gently stretch connective tissue by holding a yin pose for a long time, the body will respond by making them a little longer and stronger.
Energetically, yin yoga improves the energy flow, enhancing the flow of chi in the organs. To be healthy, we need healthy organs as well as healthy muscles.
A Yin Yoga class usually consists of a series of long-held, passive floor poses that mainly work the lower part of the body—the hips, pelvis, inner thighs, lower spine. These areas are especially rich in connective tissues. The poses are held for up to five minutes, sometimes longer. The challenge of a yin pose does not lie in the difficulty of the pose but rather in the stillness. Resisting the urge to move, fidget and simply be in the pose can give rise to a range of different emotions and resistans, both physically, emotionally and mentally.
Yin Yoga poses are designed to improve the flow of qi, the subtle energy said in Chinese medicine to run through the meridian pathways of the body. It is suggested that these meridians are created by our connective tissue. Improved flow of qi is hypothesized to improve organ health, immunity, and emotional well-being.
Four Main Principles
When practicing Yin Yoga these principles should be employed: 1) “Find an appropriate edge”: Move slowly and gently into the pose, and looks for an appropriate amount of intensity, never stretch so far as to cause pain; 2) Stillness: consciously try to release into the pose, and to remain still, without shifting position; 3) Hold the position: beginners hold for 1-3 minutes, advanced hold for five minutes or more. 4) Release with care.
Benefits of a regular practice
Increase circulation and improves flexibility
Stillness: Calms and balances the mind and body
Stress and anxiety reduction
Greater joint mobility
Meridian stimulation brings balance to the organs
The list of benefits reaches far longer than what is listed above. To fully experience the benefits and to fully know what the effects of the practice are long term, there is no better way than to go to a class and experince it first hand.