The Asana of Emotional Stability
We all know about the physical benefits of Yoga. We understand that our practice can help us build strength, endurance and increase our flexibility. A lot of times we initially get involved with yoga because of these benefits. We want to be fit, healthy and take care of our bodies. But yoga also strengthens our emotional health. What does that even mean? How can a physical practice be good for our emotions aside from maybe getting rid of some excess energy when we’re anxious or angry? Does yoga really help us become more emotionally stable?
In my personal experience the answer to this final question is a resounding YES. The lessons my practice has taught me about emotional stability have been invaluable and helped me become far more in touch with myself. The biggest of these lessons revolves around the theme of patience.
Practicing yoga can be extremely challenging. The many different aspects we need to be aware of (postures, alignment, breath, wandering thoughts) can leave us feeling overwhelmed or frustrated with ourselves. This is where we learn that yoga is a practice of patience. It takes time to achieve new asana poses. It takes time to learn how to flow in a sequence without having to stop and think about what we’re doing. It takes time to be able to balance all of the parts of our practice harmoniously. Growth within our practice takes time and no amount of impatience will make it happen any faster.
This is a lesson that was hard for me to learn. As an overachiever at just about anything I do in my life (that’s the Capricorn in me), not being able to study my way into being better at yoga was a real challenge. The only way to get better was to take the time and do the practice. This desire to get to my goal quickly lead to me practicing asana multiple times a day for weeks on end. After too much of this, my body rebelled and told me clearly that I needed to take it easy. I then found myself frustrated and confused because I couldn’t practice at all.
You may be asking, “but how did this help you with emotional stability? This sounds like the opposite!”. The answer is that my practice literally forced me to be more patient than I wanted to be. It didn’t let me just force my way into being better. I had to do it the way everyone who has a deep yoga practice does it… with repetitive practice over time. Not just time practicing, but more importantly, time in between practices for integration and renewal.
When my body finally reached the point where I was able to do asana again, I decided to attend a level 1 class. “You know, just so I can get a refresher on the basics”. Attending that class completely changed my perspective. During class, I found that my postures were being corrected a lot by the instructor. And the more I was corrected, the more I realized that my “push to get what I want” approach had lead to my physical issues and the emotional instability that came alongside them. By trying to force my practice I had created an environment where my emotions could swing wildly because I wasn’t paying attention to what I was feeling or what my body was saying.
This revelation lead to me committing to having a yoga practice that was healthy and to do so in a way that was good for me physically and emotionally. I attended classes and took the time to move through my asana poses slowly, paying attention to what my body was telling me and what emotions came up. And the more I did this, the more patient I grew with myself. My feelings of overwhelm and anxiety and frustration became smaller and smaller until they were so tiny they no longer affected me while I was on my mat.
What’s most amazing about this is that the more patience grew within my practice, the more it started to spread into other areas of my life. The smallness of those negative feelings while I was on my mat began to stay after I put that mat away. I began to notice that whenever I felt myself getting annoyed during my commute or anxious during a stressful day at work, I was able to give myself the space to feel what was coming up and be patient with myself while I processed it. Rather than trying to shove these feelings down and cover them up with other things, I was able to identify what was happening and let it go. This ability to process my feelings has stayed with me. The stability my practice has brought me in handling my emotions has been one of its greatest gifts. And the best part? It just keeps growing.
About the Author:
Brooke Kathleen - Also known as the Unicorn Yogi, Brooke began practicing yoga in 2009. She moved to New York City for work in 2013 and her practice faded out due to the inconsistent hours. In 2017 she re-discovered her practice during a very intense and difficult series of events. After devoting herself to practice for another year she realized that she wanted to learn how to share the tools that yoga had given her to heal and grow with others. She found Vikasa online while researching and fell in love with the curriculum and location. The rest is history!
New York, USA