A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at my yoga studio having been crying all day. I signed up for the hottest class that the studio offered: a form similar to bikram. It’s a set series of poses practiced slowly and deliberately in a very hot room. I collected myself as best I could before beginning the class, but I told my teacher that I might cry. I did. I sequestered myself in a spot in the back of the room and quietly sobbed through the entire hour. I didn’t want to be self-pitying and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, but I used the class to work through what had been making me cry all day. I allowed myself to cry because I knew I needed it. I continued sobbing when class was finished – and cried late into the night – but I was glad I had used the yoga practice to go through what I needed to.
The next evening, after another hot class, my teacher and I discussed the experience. She was understanding and supportive and she said that if more people knew that yoga is a safe place to work through sadness and unresolved pain, then there would be more people crying through classes. The purpose of yoga is to heal anything that ails you, and crying is part of the process.
I previously would have felt histrionic or guilty for crying publicly, but I know that I’m not the only person who has cried practicing yoga and I understand that it’s inevitable if I am having a hard time (and I’ve already been crying). I’m the kind of person whose response to anger, frustration, resentment, loneliness, and depression is to cry.
There are times when I know exactly what makes me cry in yoga and other times when I have to discern why. I just don’t berate myself over it anymore and I try to have compassion for myself. I wouldn’t be crying if I didn’t need to cry, and I understand that any yoga therapist would rather me use the yoga to deal with the pain than to try to force it away. It’s perfectly acceptable to work through anything by crying, and yoga is one of the safest places in which to do it.