Issues in your tissues
We all have issues in our tissues. We store our emotions in our bodies. This emotional holding can create physical pain, stress and dis-ease. This is the connection between the mind, body and spirit that yoga recognises. We learned from childhood onwards to suppress our emotions. We are taught to stifle our natural emotional reactions and we unlearn our ability to listen to our bodies. This leads to the shutting down of energy flow and storage of unexpressed emotions.
‘What happens to the mind also happens to the body and spirit,’ explains Donna Raskin, highlighting the meaning of ‘yoga’; the Sanskrit word for union.
We can hold that emotional tension in various areas of the body. The hips are considered to be the storehouse of emotional baggage or emotional trauma, long hidden emotions that have not been confronted or expressed. This can lead to the tightness and tension in the outer hips but also in the psoas.
The psoas major is unique in that it is the only muscle which connects the spine and leg bones and hinges on the central nervous system that attaches through the spine into the brain. Tightness the psoas can also mean that abdominal breathing is restricted. As Guru T. K. V. Desikachar states, ‘The quality of our breath expresses our inner feelings.’ A tight psoas interferes with the movement of the diaphragm which in turn affects the ability to activate the parasympathetic response. The psoas therefore plays a role in energy and emotional storage and blockage. Stored emotions may allow yogis to ‘discover blocks that may have been hindering the healing process,’ according to physical therapist, Carol M. Davis. She goes on to suggest that ‘not only the myofascial element, but also every cell of the body has a consciousness that stores memories and emotions.’(Davis, 2009). ‘I believe that unexpressed emotion is in the process of traveling up … from the periphery, up the spinal chord, up into the brain. When emotion moves up, it can be expressed. It takes a certain amount of energy from our bodies to keep the emotion unexpressed … I think unexpressed emotions are literally lodged lower in the body.’ (Candace Per, 1999). A slow practice focusing on the hips and psoas can allow a deep physical and emotional release. As Rod Stryker has said "If you have never laughed or cried in a yoga class, what are you waiting for?"
Pain in the other parts of the body can also be attributed to unchecked emotional build up. Neck and shoulder pain is related to feelings of overwhelm and of having too much to cope with. Lower back pain to feeling a lack of support and burying emotions and is related to the storage of emotions in the hips.
Upper back and between the shoulders is attributed to anxiety, fear of the future and can be correlated with difficulty in sleeping. Tension in the jaw while sleeping can worsen shoulder and neck tension.
The physical pain of emotional baggage is related to blockages in life energy (Prana or Chi), Indian and Chinese philosophies have long pointed to a correlation between emotions and certain areas of the body. Fear in the kidneys, anger in the liver, worry in the stomach, fear in the heart and grief in the lungs. We speak about this in our day to day language, referring for example to our heart skipping a beat when we are suddenly scared. Fortunately, the organs are also recipient of positive emotions. The home for beauty is in the lungs; joy in the heart; creativity in the stomach; kindness in the liver; and wisdom in the kidneys.
Poses in yoga work the body physically by releasing contracted muscle and energetically by stimulating the meridian lines that correspond to the major organs in the body. Meridian lines are the energy channels that carry life energy throughout the body. Strong emotional responses can arise in poses when the meridian lines are blocked or associated organ has blockages.
Becoming aware of an emotional response or of a contracted muscle and pain is an opportunity to watch what is happening without blame, to simply note whether there are feelings arising. Just observe them as they are. And let your emotions blossom