In many yoga classes you will hear hip-opening poses described as times for emotional release. I’m sure I’ve said, “for whatever reason, we seem to store our emotions in our hips.” What a strange thing for someone to say out loud. What does that even mean, and what happened to me that makes me say that when I lead a class into half pigeon?
There are two reasons why I associate intense hip-openers with a bucket of “feels,” and one is science. Your hip area is where your center of gravity lies, and the psoas muscle connects the spine and leg bones, “hinging on the central nervous system that attaches…into the brain, [and] can be regarded as an extension of the survival-focused reptilian brain,” (Kachina Autumn). When we experience fear or stress, our “fight or flight” instincts can tighten the muscles in around our hips. In today’s world, stress at school or work is not going to cause us to physically fight or run away, but the same tightening in our hips can occur. This is why we have tight hip muscles that can also be associated with negative emotions.
The second reason why I say it’s okay to cry in frog pose is personal experience. It was the last class in a particularly exhausting day of my teacher training, and we sat in pigeon pose just like many other classes I had been in before. The teacher suggested that we settle into the pose by thinking of our “happy place” and I immediately envisioned myself sitting in the sunny grass outside of the Reflecting Pool in Boston, just down the street from my current apartment and university. That same instant was the first time I really felt proud of myself, because I had worked hard to make my way to Boston, right into my real-life happy place. At the time, I couldn’t believe what a wonderful spot I was at in my life. Tears ran down my face in the lightest way and the instructor smiled sympathetically when I came up out of the pose. Such a simple revelation mixed with the intensity of exhaling out tension from my hips led to my very strong emotional response and release. We don’t often let go of positive things, but in this case, I was allowing myself to feel something (pride) that I had previously been holding in behind the stress of everyday life.
I get it; crying in your power vinyasa class can sound intimidating or even psychologically unsound. However, if you are practicing in a true yoga community, no one will think anything of your emotional reaction to a physical pose. Who knows, maybe your courage to fully let go of stored emotions will help them to release their own feelings in the next class.