I believe the way we live our life, our sense of joy and purpose is determined by who we are on the inside. Not what we think, but our emotional balance. When we are at peace with all the parts of our emotional landscape, the events in the world around us have little effect on us. It could even be argued, that by finding an emotional core of happiness we attract good circumstances into our lives.
I also believe that an overweight or sick body is a result of suppressed emotions and holding on to grief, anger and sadness. When we integrate our emotions we see positive changes in our physical body.
None of this is news to most of you who read my blog. But the question has always been — how do you change how you feel?
Since doing Bikram Yoga I’ve developed an interesting theory.
The way to changing how I feel is to experience, accept and release my emotions (past and current) and the best way to do this is to silence my mind.
And the simplest way to silence my mind is to engage in physical activity that requires me to fully inhabit my physical body.
A woman left a comment on a Facebook conversation about Bikram Yoga. She said,
I cried every time I went in. It stirred up deep emotions from the intense heat and rapid breathing…
In my yoga studio, they have boxes of tissues around the edges of the room. Crying in yoga is common.
This is why I go to yoga. Not to change my body from the outside in, but to transform it from the inside out. Without changing the way I eat, without doing anything more than no-impact Hatha Yoga, my body looks different and I’ve lost 2kg in under two weeks. When I silence the chatter in my head, connect with my breath and what my body is doing in the moment, emotions bubble up to the surface and then drain away.
It is this emotional release that brings a physical transformation not the other way around.
My head loves to get involved. I hate this class, this is such a waste of time, let’s just go home. But when that happens I’ve learned to observe the thoughts and feel the frustration, anger or impatience as part of releasing what I need to let go.
Any physical endeavour that makes it impossible to think about anything except what your body is doing would work. I’ve cried in a spin class. Some people can focus on their breath and their body when they run or when they lift weights, but when I do those kinds of activities my mind goes off on all sorts of tangents. Most of my thoughts have to do with how many calories I’m burning and if my biceps look any bigger than they did last week. When I’m in yoga, my only thought is about which limb goes where.
By following a physical pathway that bypasses your mind, you will improve your emotional health which will impact on all areas of your life — work, relationships and creativity — and it is this emotional health that will bring positive changes in your physical body. Not just a tighter body, but better skin, restful sleep, healed injuries, less illness and a healthy digestive system.
There are many people who work hard on their fitness who experience breakouts, insomnia, injuries, colds and flu, food intolerance and constipation. It seems that for most people, being able to lift heavy, cycle quickly or run a marathon does nothing to improve their overall quality of life. Their bodies still break down, their minds need constant coercion into training and they can show intolerance for anyone else who doesn’t follow their exercise doctrine.
And of course, this is fine if that is what you choose (and I get the irony of me criticising people for criticising people), but if you would like another way, this is what is working for me.
By focussing on my emotional healing, silencing my mind, and opening up my body with Bikram Yoga, I have realised I don’t need to do any other physical exercise, positive thinking or deep emotional work. It all happens organically during ninety minutes in a hot room. And because it feels so good to surrender to the heat and to the work, I crave it, every single day. Even if a class is bad, even if I can’t do it all, even if my balance is off, it doesn’t matter because as long as I stay with my body and bypass the chatter in my mind my emotions are free to come up. The benefits come from inhabiting my heart, not from getting my forehead on the floor.
Do you have a physical practice that brings up your emotions? Have you ever cried in yoga, spin class or another kind of exercise?
I think this idea is important and I’d love you to share this post so we can get the word out. x