Yoga basics

Why are we overcome with emotions during or after yoga class?

Ask a Yogi Series

You’ve followed them on Facebook. You might even take their classes in person once in awhile if they travel to or live in your city. But how well do you know our YogaGlo teachers? We’ve created a new series, Ask a Yogi, so you can learn more about them by asking questions you’ve always wanted to ask.

From favorite poses and tips for beginners to deeper questions about how their practice has changed their worldview, our teachers will collectively answer a new question each week. If you have a questions that you’d like to “Ask a Yogi”, let us know in the comments or email us at and we’ll add your question to the list. Today’s Ask a Yogi question is:

Why are students often overcome with emotion after yoga practice?

  • Elena Brower: For myself, almost every time I practice in a class setting, you’ll find me with tears streaming down my face. I love learning, I love being present in my body, I love being led, and I love how the practice always yields a feeling of strength and connection to myself and to my family. I hear folks commenting on a range of emotional experiences, from joyous to melancholy, but they always come away from practice sensing some sort of healing.
  • Kathryn Budig: The yoga mat is our own personal island where any emotions we feel—joy, dread, exhilaration or despair—can all surface safely here without judgement. A good yoga practice taps directly into our core and reality of what’s happening in our lives, so it can be an emotional release depending on what we’ve been denying or holding in. It’s a fabulous place for sweet release and surrender which leads to healing.
  • Jason Crandell: Practicing yoga reveals what is happening inside us. And, sometimes we have more turbulence inside us than we realize. The practice simply uncovers what we are already feeling. Sometimes it’s pleasant and sometimes its painful. Sometimes both. It’s normal to feel whatever you feel—and, it’s also normal to not feel overcome with emotions after your practice.
  • Tiffany Cruikshank: So many reasons but the biggest is that yoga asks us to look at the parts of ourselves that we would rather ignore or forget about.Whether its the chronic pain from our daily lives or the emotional pain from many years of living.  Yoga asks us to show up and bravely look it all in the eye and sometimes its brutal but the practice is about showing up courageously regardless.  Sometimes that means we leave practice on a cloud and sometimes we leave feeling a bit vulnerable, neither one is good or bad, they all teach us more about ourselves so that we can choose to live the life we were designed to, to be our brightest selves.
  • Steven Espinosa: During my first year of practicing yoga, every time I was in Savasana tears would be literally streaming down my face! I would be laying on my back and my body would be convulsing trying to not cry out loud! It was crazy! Looking back on it now, I believe it was this huge release of pent up, stored up, bottled up energy and emotion. I had been struggling for so many years and trying to hold it all together physically, emotionally and mentally that it all just came flooding out! It was a mixture of tears of sadness but also tears of joy. Joy that I had somehow finally found my way back home. The Home Of The Heart.
  • Marc Holzman: I believe there are two possibilities for this emotional response; both signal a colossal breakthrough and indicate that the student has gone deep. I remember being on a yoga retreat very early in my practice, doing 3 hours of slow, intense hip openers, and subsequently sobbing for hours afterward. I mean SOBBING!  There was no specific memory attached to the moment, nor did the tears feel like they were springing from a well of sadness or joy. It was a non-specific emotional release. 1) An emotional response could simply mean that the student is going through an intense moment in his or her life (or just having a crappy day), and the very nature of the practice (moving, breathing, stillness, focused awareness, contemplation), allows the student to feel more of what they are already feeling. When you churn the Ocean of Consciousness in this way, by the time Savasana comes along, there is a sweet release. 2) We wear thick, protective, armor. Our survival tactics are well in place and have accumulated over a lifetime. After a deep practice, when you least expect it …  even when you’ve had an ordinary day …  some of that armor melts. The thick outer shield softens and gives way to a softer more vulnerable layer. We surrender just a little bit. We give up the fight. Emotions can easily make their way to the surface. Here is something I noticed: Ironically, sometimes after a deep meditation or asana practice, my anger and irritation is triggered more easily. How could this possibly be? What I think is happening is that diving deeply brings me to a very tender, vulnerable, and deeply personal place; my sensitivity is heightened. When I then transition into the ‘real world’ I feel easily assaulted by the harshness and protective of that quiet, personal space I’m still dwelling in. Thus, Marc gets a little prickly. There is window during the transition from class to street in which we’re a bit more hypersensitive.
  • Amy Ippoliti: Tears at the end of practice are so natural. For most people, touching into the miraculous nature of your own embodiment is not always a frequent occurrence, so when it happens we can get overcome with the torrent of, well…”being-ness”. The universe does its best to get us to notice how precious life is and how cherished we are, yet our human tendency is to tune out and forget our nature. So again, when we pause long enough to smell the proverbial roses of our essence, it’s mind blowing, and even astonishing at times. The key is to be in the world, fully awake, present to the details, to the people around us, and to our responsibilities, all from a place of this post – Savasana universal understanding. Imagine living your life blown wide open in the world. That is a conscious life.
  • Tara Judelle: In yoga we are working intentionally to transmute stored energy in the complex of the body/mind to a state of harmony or balance. In the journey toward that natural state there is the release of many stores feelings or emotions that can have been stored or stuffed inside. Some may be recent emotions, some may be very old. As we open up the muscles and the muscle casing (fascia) which stores memory and energy – we may experience that release as a raw emotional state. This is a natural process to restore balance and order into the body as we catch move into a place or clarity and resolution.
  • Kia Miller: When we practice yoga we start to penetrate into the deeper dimensions of who we are. What is unconscious is slowly brought into the light, and in the process often strong emotions are released. Past traumas, unprocessed feelings and thoughts get stored in our bodies. Holding postures and breathing with awareness helps us to move what is dark into the light. We cannot stay the same when we are engaging with our Self in this way. The practice of yoga is like peeling an onion layer by layer, eventually revealing our inner light. Welcome these emotions as they show that you are doing the work necessary to move beyond that which binds and constricts you enabling you to stand more firmly in the truth of who you are.
  • Christina Sell: I think emotional release can happen for all kinds of reasons. Most of us modern-day, householder yogis are pretty busy people. Given the amount of stress we are under and the amount of obligations that we are managing it is very easy for us to ignore our emotions in the name of “getting things done”, etc. Sometimes our sadness, grief and even anger is underneath the surface of our awareness and yoga is that time when we slow down enough to tune into what is inside, but not always on the top of the pile, so to speak. This happens a lot with meditation and pranayama where people will say, “That practice made me feel ________” when many times it is just that the contemplative, quiet practice cleared away the distractions blocking that feeling from their awareness and revealed the feelings that were already there. Another reason has to do with the body-mind-emotion connection where our posture and breath is very linked to our feelings. For instance, when we feel sad, we will tend to droop in our shoulders, cast our eyes downward and drop the top of our chest. This is a posture of sadness, so to speak, and while the posture expresses the feeling of sadness on one level, it does not express the sadness in a way that releases the feeling. When we move our body in the other direction, for instance by bringing the shoulders back, opening the eyes wide and lifting the chest, the opposite postural stance many times creates a release of the feeling. I had a teacher who called asanas “the postures of happiness” but there is a little fine print with that, in my experience, because when we adopt a “posture of happiness” many times we will have to face the sadness that lived in the habitual posture. Anxiety is like this also. When we feel afraid, we tend to hold our breath and breathe largely from the top of the chest, failing to take in a full breath. We might say that is a “Breath of Fear.” When we deepen the breath, the fear that was holding our breath more shallowly comes to the surface for us to release. A full-hearted breath or a “Courageous Breath” then, might ask us to face our anxiety directly before we feel its more positive nature. Or to state this in a more simple way, asana helps us move stuck energy. Emotions are energy at their most basic level and so as we move, breathe, stretch and strengthen our bodies, our energy channels open and as they open anything that is stuck inside gets liberated and released. I think the best strategy for dealing with this phenomenon is to be very loving and accepting with ourselves and be really spacious with ourselves as the emotions arise and yet, we do not need to make a huge deal of it either. Emotional release is so natural and it is a very normal part of practice and transformation. I always tell my students and myself “better out than in!”
  • Jo Tastula: Yoga is a practice that works on many different levels. Although it is grounded in the physical, it is also affects your emotional and mental bodies too. So, just as you can hold tension in your muscles from a stressful day at work, you can also hold onto emotional stress in your body. When you consciously work on releasing that stress and pent up tension, as we do in our yoga practice, you are letting go on all levels, not just the physical. Typically, it’s not until the end of the class when you’ve really allowed yourself to fully surrender, and that’s when the tears come. If and when they come, don’t stop the river… let the tears flow.
  • Felicia Tomasko: When I think about the phenomenon of being overcome with emotions and tears during class, a few things come up for me. First—how often in our lives, in a 24-hour day, do we pause to even pay attention to how we feel or notice the thoughts running through our mind? When we do take the time to stop and pause, then something beneath the surface has the opportunity to expose itself. It’s also important to remember that not all tears are necessarily sad; they can also be an indication just of emotion rolling through us. On a deeper note, emotions are not something that occurs between our ears, but our entire body, so there are times when our embedded feelings, stored within the body, start to emerge when we move. Yoga postures and connecting to the breath and body have a particularly powerful effect on us in this way, of unlocking what may be swept under the rug of our bodies. Sometimes we become fearful of our emotional state, but simply breathing and allowing emotion to move through you can be one of the greatest benefits of practice.
  • Harshada Wagner: There are lots of tears in my sessions. I hear this from many YogaGlo people too. There are many many reasons for this. But one of the simple things that is happening is that people experience some release. Maybe they were a little pent up or emotionally frozen. The practice unfreezes or unleashes their feelings. Sometimes there is a deeper release, a spiritual movement that unleashes a deeper energy that expresses itself in tears. But really, there are so many answers to this.

Ask a Yogi

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