I’ve been asked a few times if it’s normal to feel emotional or get teary during or after a (yin) yoga class... and an example I can give of why this might happen is this… A few days ago I gave myself a facial at home, it is rare I do this, but this time I did it “properly” and even used steam to do it, after I did it, my skin had a breakout. Now, it’s clear to me that the facial allowed my skin to purge old oil, bacteria and impurities that were hidden underneath my skin in order to properly cleanse it from the outside in and inside out. I’ve heard of something called the “Chinese cure” which means that sometimes things (the skin in this case) need to get worse before they get better, and I believe that this is what happens to our bodies when we practice certain yoga postures, all of the old emotional, physical and mental traumas along with tensions may surface as we access the deepest layers in our bodies.
If you practice yoga, you might have heard that “there are many emotions stored in the hips,” I have said it and heard many teachers saying it too and I wanted to find out “how.” So, I started to do some research and I found that there's a major muscle that passes through the pelvis which seems to be quite involved in this general belief, this muscle is the psoas, and whether it is merely involved in the belief or it is the culprit of it, it is definitely a muscle known for its connection to trauma but also healing
The psoas has a major and a minor muscle. The major is the one that connects the femur to the spine (lower to upper extremities) and the minor connects the pelvis to the spine. Both psoas muscles are part of a larger group called the iliopsoas which also includes the iliacus. This muscle group, contracting simultaneously flexes the hip. It is the deepest muscle in our core and it is said to be the biggest and strongest of the hip flexors
One of the few roles of the psoas is that it provides a “shelf” that supports internal organs along with the pelvis as a basin, and the pelvic floor. Thus, any force in the psoas (such as muscular contraction) can stimulate and massage organs such as the intestines, kidneys, liver, spleen, pancreas, bladder, and/or stomach. The psoas deep location is proximate to various organs, arteries, nerves, the diaphragm, the nervous systems and a few myofascial meridian lines such as the superficial front line, deep front line and spiral line as well as the stomach, spleen, liver and kidney meridians from TCM.
When we feel threatened, or experience a stressful/shocking or traumatic event, there is a response from the central nervous system that can be reflected in emotional responses that leads to a sudden contraction in the muscles in the body as a means of protecting itself. In this case the psoas acting as a hip flexor allows us to bring our extremities together, creating a fetal position in the body and guarding the vulnerable parts from potential attack. In an ideal world, if we went through a traumatic experience, we could shake it off like animals do, and forget about it, however when we are not able to release the tension that this causes, the memory of traumatic stress can be held in the psoas major. In the book "The Vital Psoas Muscle" by Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones, it says that “people can hold embedded memories of traumatic events in the body as well as the brain… Pent-up energy is held in the body as a memory and can appear as physical symptoms that can cause tightness, unresponsiveness, and pain.” Similarly David Berceli, who has provided trauma recovery assistance to the U.S military personnel and worked with thousands of people with PTSD on his book "The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process" states that "contracted or damaged psoas muscles can cause severe and persistent lower back pain... Because the reaction of the human body during trauma alters the tone of our skeletal muscles and their ability to function, if these changes in our muscles go unreleased, they will develop into patterns of chronic tension that will eventually create additional body dysfunction. Unless they are returned to a relaxed state after the stressful event is over, they are particularly vulnerable to continued stimulation, causing us to react to even minor stress with anxiety"
When the psoas is released, emotions such as fear, anxiety, and other disturbances housed in the body can surface. Once they surface and are acknowledged, they can be worked on or let go. Just like the breakout on my skin after cleansing it, it needed to surface so that it could properly detox from stagnant pollution, as some say, better out than in!
According to Evette Rose in her book Metaphysical Anatomy “when a person experiences pain in the body, the body often memorises how it felt at the time when the pain was inflicted. The memory of the emotions experienced at the time of trauma is recorded in the injured area. When the injured area is bumped or injured again, it can activate the emotions that were recorded at the time of the initial injury”
During a yoga practice, especially meditative ones like yin yoga, we are more able to recognise the inner messages from our bodies, when we twist, lengthen, contract, flex, relax, stretch, tense, and stress our tissues, everything that has been imprinted in the extracellular matrix of our bodies during our lives may confront us; protection or escape strategies, fears, pains, attachments, dislikes, intense emotions, etc may surface., and even though this might catch us off guard, it is an invitation to look within and not only see but accept what comes up ready to be released, in whichever form it takes, and knowing that it is okay and quite common. At times, we might use busyness as a means of denial toward what’s in our present situation, and we prefer to distract ourselves so that we don’t have to recognise that there is an issue or block waiting to be released ... This is a common way to keep safe in the known rather than challenged in the unknown. It may not be until something confronts us that we are forced to deal with the very thing that we’re running away from, and this is essential for healing <3
I hope this has been helpful for you, thank you for reading =)
Wishing you love, health and peace,