Yoga Notes: Asanas and Feelings


Last week, coming back from a month-long rough trip and a while of not practicing, I entered seated forward bends and had to stop practicing because I could not stop crying. It raised the “WTF is wrong with me?” alarm. I blamed all the possibilities: travel weariness, meditation, fasting, PMS, dairy-product-withdrawal, etc.

Few days ago, I tried practicing forward bends again. And of course, the feelings reemerged. Though not as overwhelming as the last time and I thought, “Hey, absence of crushing social pressure really helped.”

What more, I managed to hold it down until the end of the forward bends variations, enter the twists, and whatever weepiness I felt were washed away. I felt cleansed.

Both forward bends and twists are like internal massages for the back and core muscles. Massage causes a rush of fresh, oxygenated blood into the massaged areas. It made sense why feelings (either physical or emotional) emerged after twists and forward bends; because of the mental and physical bruises stored in the muscles.

But why the contextual difference between the two? Why did I feel grief and fear in forward bends, and then felt cleansed and rejuvenated during twists?

It’s hard to go into details about body-mind connection without sounding too hippie or New Age. Enlightenments, ecstasies and orgasms are private experiences; the only measuring tool for them is the rhythmic meter in a poem. Eastern medicine is richer in vocabulary and theories about how food, feelings and form relate to each other, but the more I talk about them, the shyer I relate to things as jarring as sudden, uncontrollable bouts of weeping.

Physiology and anatomy, however, are tangible enough to dwell writing about. And the closest biological explanation to the emotional rush in deep back extensions starts from the Psoas muscles.

Buried deep within the core of your body, the psoas (pronounced "so-az") affects every facet of your life, from your physical well-being to who you feel yourself to be and how you relate to the world...Intimately involved in the fight or flight response, the psoas can curl you into a protective fetal ball or flex you to prepare the powerful back and leg muscles to spring into action. Because the psoas is so intimately involved in such basic physical and emotional reactions, a chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you're in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system.

- Yoga Journal, The Psoas is

Since forward bending requires the kind of muscular extension that is counterintuitive to stress-reflexes, it challenges our sense of security. Getting that hurdle over with, forward bends brings forth a submissive kind of peace, kind of like the one we feel right before an orgasm. (And we stayed in that asana longer, we might, actually.)

And twists are just awesome stretches: they open our chests and bring out the booming, happy soldier in us. Try it. Try releasing your psoas. Try yoga. And experience the swing. Just be safe. And make sure you go over the weepy hurdle.

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