We all have issues in our tissues. And I don’t mean tissues to wipe our noses. I mean tissues in our body- the muscles, ligaments, tendons and even nerves. Emotions are little messages from your body that indicate when something is right or wrong. Have you ever gotten an email that just made your day? Maybe you got an interview with a company you really want to work at, or maybe you won a cash prize in a contest you competed in. What about the times that feel less exciting? Perhaps you had a long day at work and your boss comes into your office almost at the end of the day to give you more assignments. Or maybe you and your beloved just had an argument.
Your emotional backlog, as explained by Brianna Wiest, is like an email inbox. Every time you experience an emotion, it’s like you are receiving a little message from your body. If you keep ignoring them, you will accumulate thousands of notifications of unopened, unaddressed emails from your body. The good news is that if you decide you no longer want to ignore them, there are yoga poses for emotional release that you can try at home to tackle some of these heavy emotions.
Humans are masters of ignoring feelings, especially the ones we know will take a lot of time and effort to unpack. Just like how we all have those emails with multiple parts addressing different things and we have to respond before a specific deadline. It’s daunting. But as we continue to ignore the small and the big messages (emotions), the “emotional backlog” starts to jam and eventually it all comes crashing down. Think about the times you’ve snapped and just had to take a whole day for yourself to cry, eat ice cream, and sleep… Okay maybe not those specifically, but we have all had to take “mental health” days because the backlog was beginning to be too much for us to function properly.
A problem many people tend to run into is that they numb their feelings or pacify them which eventually leads to being stored elsewhere in the body so that the brain can come back to business. The intent is that we will come back to address it later, but sometimes we wait too long and the emotions start to manifest as physical pain.
Issues in our tissues
So where exactly do the feelings we avoid end up going? Sean Grover, L.C.S.W., studied where people tend to store their unwanted emotions over a span of many years. Certainly, he says, not all body aches or illnesses are psychosomatic; however, recurring patterns were revealed throughout his studies.
Grover found anger to be associated with pain and cramping in the lower back, as well as frustration with other people.
Fear was associated with the stomach and intestines and is much deeper than having a fear of spiders. This fear includes fear of the future, fear of inadequacy, fear of loss, fear of confrontation, fear of defeat, fear of failure, and so on. The phrase “I’m sick to my stomach” is actually a bodily response to conflict.
Abandonment, resentment, loss
The hip region is notorious for storing large heavy emotions. This is a place that is not as easily accessible which is quite beneficial for the body as the large emotion can be tucked away unseen. But this can cause problems in later years of life manifesting as pain walking, sitting, squatting, etc.
Metaphorically, the emotions stiffen and slow us from “moving on.” The space between the hips is also the location of the second chakra (energy center) which is connected to our relationships with other people. Feelings of abandonment, resentment, and loss are commonly stored here.
Burdens and Responsibilities
The neck and shoulder regions were found to hold a lot of tension especially for those who felt like they had too many responsibilities due to work. When faced with a large workload, many tend to do it all themselves rather than leaning on another- metaphorically. Physically this causes a build up of stress and stiffness that can eventually be painful in even small movements.
Yoga poses for emotional release
Even after the “threats” have passed, the emotional message remains unopened and tucked away in our emotional inbox. There are many ways to effectively open these messages. We can express through art, meditate, go for mindful walking, and chat with a friend or therapist. One of my favorite ways is through a Yin yoga practice.
Yin Yoga asks for us to sit in longer, passive holds for at least 5-10 minutes. Not only does this help the body release physically, but also helps us find emotional and mental release. It also improves flexibility greatly as some of the tighter deeper tissues in the body needs at least 3 minutes to start loosening up. These are usually the tissues that hinder flexibility progression in a yoga practice. A consistent yoga practice brings a plethora of benefits to the mind, body, and spirit.
The following yoga poses for emotional release are wonderful for helping you find release mentally, physically, and emotionally. Try getting into these postures comfortably and passively (as in, you are not doing any active work to stay there) and stay for 5-10 minutes before moving to the next one. The objective is to find a spot and try to stay there until the end of the timer. Avoid shifting around as much as possible. It can get really intense and almost uncomfortable but try to breathe through it and relax your facial muscles through it. If you find intense pain, try to modify and/or come out of the posture slowly.
Child’s pose is a very simple posture but great for slowly releasing the lower back. Take this one with the knees wide to create an opening in the hips. Placing a bolster in between the knees and under the head makes for a nice cushion. You can also rest your right cheek on the floor or the bolster for 5 minutes and switch to the left side for 5 minutes again. There will be a small but very delicious lengthening of the very strong neck muscles that hold up your head.
Reclined Bound Angle Pose
Having a bolster under the spine will make it a heart opener, slowly loosening up the muscles in the chest while releasing the hips. Consider putting blocks under the knees to lessen the intensity of the stretch in the inner thighs.
This is one of the deepest hip openers in yoga. Use props as needed, including a bolster under the chest, a block under the hips to keep them level, and possibly a blanket under the legs if you find any bones of your legs digging into the floor. This one can get quite intense but try to stick with it and really breathe through to “cleanse” your emotions.
Twists are very powerful for the digestive system and can provide a nice massage to the intestines. As it helps physical digestion, it can also stimulate digestion of all the stimuli in your life- all the things you take in whether it be magazines, social media, television, podcasts, etc. For the twist, use one or two bolsters to support your torso while you lay with your chest on the bolster and both knees to the side. Face can be placed opposite to your knees. Switch to the other side after 5-10 minutes.
Legs up the Wall
This posture is great for release, allowing the lymph tissues to drain while purifying energy in the body. A lot of energy tends to get stuck at the feet with little power to come back up. Putting your legs up the wall can help recycle and cleanse that energy. Feel free to use a bolster under your hips or no props at all. You can also place a block under the feet to add some pressure.
After doing all of these yoga poses for emotional release, Savasana is probably the most important pose. It helps us come back to the body and feel the ground underneath us offering support at all times. Placing the bolster under your knees will allow your lower back to flatten and release onto the floor. Try to focus on your breath here. Envision yourself breathing through your toes, your knees, your thighs, hips, and all the way up until you reach the crown of your head.
A lot of emotions may flood you during or after the yoga practice. You may feel inclined to ignore, push, and run away. This is an invitation to dive deep into what you had just opened up. To find how you can transform it into love. I recommend finding a meditation or experienced yoga teacher near you who can help guide you through the process.
Talking to a friend you trust, a partner, or family member can help you unpack your newfound story. Journaling is a great way to release some thoughts onto paper and to assist in processing. A therapist may be helpful for those who don’t feel comfortable talking about it with anyone in their personal lives. Speaking with a therapist about your experiences can help you feel comfortable with your story and also allow you to see it from an objective point of view with non-biased feedback and actionable ways to address current issues in a constructive, healthy way.