Exploring the emotional benefits of your yoga practice is likely to be one of the most enriching, and perhaps surprising, elements of your journey. It is clear and well documented that yoga targets the physical body as well as the mind, but it also has tremendous potential to unlock information stored in the form of emotion – and it is this aspect that really begins to differentiate yoga from simply a form of exercise, to a form of self-care.
Five Emotional Benefits of Yoga
LEVEL: Subtler, watery, intuitive.
- Improved Mood
Sometimes what we really need is just to reset out mood, especially when we have experienced a long day at the office or a draining afternoon at the shops. There is so much that can drag down our energy levels and leave us feeling depleted, apathetic, or grumpy. Getting yourself onto the mat and carving out some time dedicated to your inner wellbeing can have amazing benefits for lightening your mood – something which seems profoundly obvious to us the moment that we feel it. If you can develop a morning routine of yoga, then it can make all the difference between a good day, and a not-so-good day. In fact, this is backed up by our own biology, and science has shown that yoga has anti-depressive qualities, because regular practice decreases cortisol in the brain and improves relaxation. All of this without having to pop any pills!
2. Emotional Intelligence
So many problems arise because we simply cannot work out how we feel, or that we have conflicted emotions. Being with yourself on the mat affords you the time and space to become better acquainted with yourself and how you tick. This inward focusing of attention can enable us to be much more sensitive to how we feel, not just on a day-to-day basis, but on a moment-to-moment basis. This can help us comprehend how and when we are irritated, tired, excited, impatient, compassionate, or maybe even joyful. Developing this level of emotional intelligence in ourselves can also expand to those in our daily environment, as we begin to understand the nuance of the human experience, and reap the rewards of this increased sensitivity to emotions. This can lead to deeper, more satisfying, and more meaningful relationships. Just imagine developing a heightened capacity for patience, presence, and empathy and how that could be applied with your loved ones!
3. Process Hidden Feelings
It is so easy for us to just soldier on. In fact, modern society deems it almost a necessity! With tiring schedules and our attention being pulled in so many directions at once, it is much easier for your mind to push troubling feelings down into the subconscious. But just because it is ‘out of sight’ doesn’t mean it is ‘out of mind’, and unresolved feelings can manifest in an array of psychosomatic ailments. Practicing yoga mindfully can allow ignored or difficult-to-handle feelings to land on the shore of the conscious mind in a manageable manner, enabling you to integrate and process what would otherwise be left to fester in the underworld of your subconscious.
4. And… Release!
Whilst the idea of hidden feelings bubbling to the surface may sound scary for some, the addage of ‘better out than in’ really does apply here. It is all just about coming to awareness, getting to know yourself, and liberating your mind and behaviours from stale and restrictive patterns. With that, there is a tremendous depth of catharsis to be gained from regular practice, and the type of release can be anything! (Yes, flatulence…) but also, on an emotional level, you allow your mind and body to vent everything it needs to. One day it could be hysterical laughter, or tears of ecstasy. On another, it might be the solemn weeping of a realised truth. The important thing is to sit with yourself and abide in these feelings, whatever they may be, without labelling them or judging yourself. This ability to cultivate an equanimous mindset is really where your deepest power lies, and once you can understand this on an experiential level, you will welcome tides of peace and abundance into your life and and the lives of those around you.
5. Hello, Gratitude.
I could talk about any of the emotions I’ve personally experienced on the yoga mat (joy, anxiety, relief, power, despair), but I have learned that exploring my body and mind through yoga has helped me to develop a deep sense of gratitude for all of the wonderful things I have in my life; my health, my heart, my mind, my ability to feel, to express, to explore, move, and grow. This sense of gratitude also acts as a sort of metaphysical magnet for more good things to enter your life, and the secret of it all is your emotion. This ties in well with the spiritual benefits of yoga, but all I will say to round off this article is that, if it weren’t for my ability to experience my own emotions and open to my own sensitivity, I would not have grown, nor would I have benefitted as much from my yoga practice as I have done. Remember though, that so much of what happens in the mind and on the mat is subjective so, in a way, these words can only act as signposts on your own journey, but nevertheless, I whole-heartedly encourage you to experience the incredible emotional benefits of yoga for yourself.
There are countless benefits to be had from practicing yoga, so why not see for yourself?