On the Way Back to Our Bodies
Many of of us come to yoga to find our strength and flexibility and to let go of stress. While yoga certainly can bring practitioners to profound inner peace, it’s not unusual to experience a range of feelings such as joy, anger, grief, and elation. This can be disconcerting at first, especially if we aren’t prepared for the powerful emotions that can be generated during our practice.
In my 20’s, I began my exploration in a yoga and journalling class. We would enter into a position, stay there for a while, and then journal about it. At the time, I struggled with anger and grief awoken by reconnecting with my body. The class was a difficult one for me, but ultimately it led me to a level of awareness I had not been able to achieve before practising yoga.
In western culture, we are often taught to view our lives through our intellect, and to use reason to solve our problems. This can cause us to give our emotions a back seat, or even suppress them as a coping mechanism. When we are functioning primarily from the intellect, we can be negligent of the needs of our bodies and dissociated from our emotions and those of our loved ones. The result can be confusion and feelings of alienation.
In my practice as an intuitive counsellor, I re-introduce clients to their emotions to help them feel whole, present, and attuned to their emotional needs and those of their loved ones. Emotions connect us with our intuition, so that we have more information from which to make better decisions. Often, I recommend yoga as a way to facilitate this, since working with the body through the practice of yoga reunites us with our emotional intelligence.
In a society that prizes “doing” over “being”, it’s a challenge to sit quietly and experience our feelings, because we’re not taught to see the worth in that. In a yoga studio, quite the opposite is true, as an environment is created to promote personal growth and healing, where emotions can surface in a supportive, communal atmosphere designed to bring us to wholeness, uniting the mind and body.
As a yoga instructor, I am passionate about teaching Yin, because it encourages practitioners to relax into a pose for as much as five minutes. This not only stretches the deepest tissues in the body in a gentle and thorough manner, but it also allows for emotions to filter to the surface in a process that supports students to comprehend and integrate feelings and realizations that unfold during their practice, using breath to stay centered.
One of the results of living in an intellectually based society is our tendency to be shallow breathers. We often live in our heads, always on the alert due to the abundance of stimuli in our surroundings. It’s one of the reasons why many of our maladies in the western world are stress-related. We get in the habit of being in hyperdrive all the time.
Deep breathing – a common part of our yoga practice – not only helps us to relax, it also takes us deeper into our bodies, enabling us to feel more present and connected with our physical experience. When powerful emotions arise, slowing and deepening the breath helps us to sit with those emotions as they move through us.
We learn that we can feel the entire range of our experience without suffering, simply by allowing our emotions to arise and fall away as we observe them. It can be overwhelming when we first tap into our emotional field of awareness, but ultimately this practice has many benefits. When we are emotionally present, we feel more alive, more connected to our loved ones and our community, and able to make better decisions for ourselves by learning to trust our responses in the moment.
We start to pay attention to the physical guidance we receive, so that a sudden feeling of uneasiness, a sense of tension in the stomach, or a soft opening of the heart become signals for us. We listen to the information we receive through our bodies. Then, the intellect takes its rightful place, working with the emotional intelligence so that our actions come from a place of holistic awareness. We come back to our bodies, and they teach and guide us.
During her pursuits over the past several decades in yoga practice, body-building martial arts, expressive dance, canoeing and hiking, Bonita has discovered the curative effects of movement on her health, overcoming asthma and spinal injuries, particularly through yin yoga.
Bonita loves to teach Yin as a pathway to greater well-being and flexibility for all body types, and as a wonderful way of balancing out yang-style yoga, sports, and other physical activities.
Bonita trained with Mark Laham and Louise Sattler through MindBodyWarrior in Ottawa, ON, learning not only the postures but the emotional anatomy associated with Yin.
To support your yoga practice, she also works as an intuitive health practitioner offering intuitive counselling, PSYCH-K, Therapeutic Touch, workshops and other modalities through www.spiritkelowna.com