Hi all! In the last post we talked about the importance of emotions, how they guide our life, let us get to know und understand ourselves. We have also talked about the importance of owning one’s emotions and feeling them through. We saw, how if we do not allow the emotion to pass through our body fully, it can get “stuck” and create tensions, pains, and depression.
Today, we will look at 14 different body parts that tend to hold certain emotions, and yoga poses that can help you relieve those tensions and let go of stale emotional energy.
Shoulders – Burdens and responsibilities
Pose: Thread the needle
Start on your hands and knees. Reach your right arm open to the ceiling, then thread it under the left arm, bringing your right shoulder and cheek to the mat. The hips should stay lifted. If you want to work the left shoulder at the same time, reach the left hand behind you towards your right hip. Do this pose on both sides.
The Neck – Fear and Repressed Self-Expression
Pose: Standing Forward Bend Pose
Come into a standing position with your feet under your hips. Lengthen your body as you fold your upper body forward, keeping a slight bend in your knees. Bring your hands to your legs, a block, or the floor. Tuck your chin in to your chest, and let your head and neck fully relax. You can gently shake your head from side to side, front to back, or make gentle circles. This helps to release tension in your neck and shoulders. Hold this position for at least 1 minute. Bring your arms and head up last as you roll your spine up to standing.
Throat – Repressed Self-Expression
Pose: Upward-Facing Dog
Lie on your mat facing down. Stretch your legs back, with the tops of your feet on the floor. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your waist so that your forearms are relatively perpendicular to the floor. Inhale and press your inner hands firmly into the floor and slightly back, as if you were trying to push yourself forward along the floor. Then straighten your arms and simultaneously lift your torso up and your legs a few inches off the floor on an inhalation. Keep the thighs firm and slightly turned inward, the arms firm and turned out so the elbow creases face forward. Firm the shoulder blades against the back and puff the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Look straight ahead or tip the head back slightly, but take care not to compress the back of the neck and harden the throat.
Upper Back – Grief, Sorrow, and Sadness
Pose: Child’s Pose
Few poses are as comforting as Child’s Pose. This posture encapsulates what the body organically wants to do when we are under duress: curl in. Come onto your shins with the tops of the feet on the floor. Bring your big toes together and spread your knees apart. Shift your hips back toward your heels and reach your arms in front of you. Rest your forehead on a block to give your brain a rest, too. It is helpful to be on your fingertips to keep space in your neck and shoulders. Stay here as long as you like.
Middle Back – Insecurity and Powerlessness
Pose: Cat Cow
Cat-cow moves the entire spine to bring mobility and flexibility from the sacrum to the very top of the cervical spine. It’s one of the best yoga poses for middle back pain, as well as pain in the lower and upper back. Begin on all fours, wrists beneath shoulders and knees beneath hips. Lengthen the tailbone down and slightly forward to engage the low belly while the crown of the head reaches forward to lengthen the spine. Inhale and drop your belly towards the floor as your tailbone lifts, shoulder blades slide together on the back, heart reaches forwards between your arms, and your gaze lifts. Exhale, tucking the tailbone under and pushing the floor away to arch your back like a cat, chin tucked to chest. Repeat this slowly five more times, following the breath.
Lower Back – Guilt, Shame, and Unworthiness
Pose: Knees to chest with slow rock
Lie on your back. Hug both knees into your chest. Slowly rock your torso back and forth while firmly holding onto your legs. Do this for one to three minutes.
Stomach – Inability to Process Emotions
Pose: Bird-Dog Pose
Start on your hands and knees with your palms flat on the floor directly below your shoulders and your hips aligned with your knees. Your neck should be in line-with your back and your gaze should be down or slightly forward in front of your nose. Shift your weight into your left knee and slowly begin to lift your right leg off the ground and straighten it behind you while pointing your toes to the ground. As you lift your leg be sure to lift with your hips and your core muscles and not your lower back muscles. If you feel your lower back muscles tighten you have lifted your leg up too far and need to lower it to be in-line with your body. Shift your weight onto your right hand and lift your left arm straight in front of you. Just like when you lifted your leg, use your core muscles and shoulder flexors to straighten your arm in-line with your body. Your fingers should be reaching forward with your palm facing you and your thumb facing towards the sky. Making sure your entire body is a straight line from your arms down through your neck and spine to your legs and feet, begin to stretch your fingers as far forward as possible while keeping a straight spine. While you are stretching your fingers forward, flex you foot so your toes are pointed to the ground and your heel is pushing behind you like if you were standing sideways on a wall. Now lift your leg, bring your lifted arm and knee in towards the center of your body for a slow crunch. Your elbow and knee should barely touch and then use your hips, shoulders, and core muscles to release back into Bird-Dog.
Inner Thighs – Fear of Vulnerability
Pose: Lord of the Dance
To begin with, stand in the Tadasana. Breathe in, and lift your left foot, such that the heel is placed towards the left buttock and your knees are bent. Your entire body weight must be placed on your right foot.Then, push the ball of the right thigh bone into the hip joint, and pull the kneecap up so that your standing leg is strong and straight. Keep your torso upright. Grasp the left foot from the outside with the left hand. You must make sure your lower back is not compressed. So, make sure your pubis is lifted towards your navel. And as you do that, press your tailbone to the floor. Begin to lift your left foot up, away from the floor and back, away from your torso. Extend the left thigh behind you and parallel to the floor. Your right arm must be stretched forward, such that it is parallel to the floor. Hold this pose for about 15 to 30 seconds. Release, and repeat on the other side.
Outer Thighs – Frustration and Impatience
Pose: Chair Pose
Stand in Tadasana. Inhale and raise your arms perpendicular to the floor. Either keep the arms parallel, palms facing inward, or join the palms.Exhale and bend your knees, trying to take the thighs as nearly parallel to the floor as possible. The knees will project out over the feet, and the torso will lean slightly forward over the thighs until the front torso forms approximately a right angle with the tops of the thighs. Keep the inner thighs parallel to each other and press the heads of the thigh bones down toward the heels.Firm your shoulder blades against the back. Take your tailbone down toward the floor and in toward your pubis to keep the lower back long.Stay for 30 seconds to a minute. To come out of this pose straighten your knees with an inhalation, lifting strongly through the arms. Exhale and release your arms to your sides into Tadasana.
Buttocks – Anger and Rage
Pose: Pigeon Pose
From all fours, bring your right knee forward towards your right wrist. Depending on your body it may be just behind your wrist or to the outer or the inner edge of it. Experiment with what feels right for you, giving you a stretch on your outer hip without any discomfort in your knee. Your right ankle will be somewhere in front of your left hip. Slide your left leg back and point your toes, your heel is pointing up to the ceiling. Scissor your hips together, by drawing your legs in towards each other. Use some support under your right buttock if needed, to keep your hips level. As you inhale, come onto your fingertips, lengthen your spine, draw your navel in and open your chest. As you exhale, walk your hands forward and lower your upper body towards the floor. You can rest your forearms and forehead on the mat. Stay for 5 breaths or longer. On each exhalation, try to release the tension in your right hip. To come out of the pose, push back through the hands, lift your hips and move your leg back into all fours. Repeat on the other side.
The Pelvis – Fear
Pose: Bound Angle Pose
Sit with your legs straight out in front of you, raising your pelvis on a blanket if your hips or groins are tight. Exhale, bend your knees, pull your heels toward your pelvis, then drop your knees out to the sides and press the soles of your feet together. Bring your heels as close to your pelvis as you comfortably can. With the first and second finger and thumb, grasp the big toe of each foot. Always keep the outer edges of the feet firmly on the floor. If it isn’t possible to hold the toes, clasp each hand around the same-side ankle or shin. Firm the sacrum and shoulder blades against the back and lengthen the front torso through the top of the sternum. Never force your knees down. Instead release the heads of the thigh bones toward the floor. When this action leads, the knees follow.
The Diaphragm – Panic
Pose: Pond Pose
Lie on your back, lengthen both legs, and press both thighs down into the floor. Lengthen your waist by moving your ribcage away from your hips. Extend your arms overhead, straighten them, and reach strongly until you feel a suction, or a “pond,” in your belly.
The Jaw – Repressed Desire
Pose: Lion Pose
The jaw joint, aka the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), is very strong, and tends to lock when we try to hold back impulse or desire. (I’m not talking about a serious TMJ condition, but one that has an emotional source.) When the jaw locks up, the hips also tend to lock up. We feel frozen. By opening the mouth wide and sticking your tongue out to its full extension while exhaling in Lion Pose, the jaw opens completely, which helps to release the tension in the jaw.
The Hamstrings- Grief
Pose: Pyramid Pose
From tadasana(mountain pose) with feet hip-width apart, step your right leg back about one leg-length, with your right toes pointing toward the upper right corner of your mat (your stance is like warrior I, or just slightly shorter). If you feel unstable, like you’re standing on a tightrope, widen your stance by moving your left foot a little more to the left (but keep your back toes pointing toward the upper right corner of your mat). Micro-bend your front knee to avoid locking, and track your knee straight forward (err on the side of moving the knee toward the pinky-toe side of the foot as you root down through the ball of your right big toe and outer heel. Lift your back inner thigh up, draw the back side of your belly toward the front side of your belly, and move your front outer hip back.
Either keep your hands on your hips, hold opposite elbows behind your back, or come into a reverse prayer position (hands in prayer behind your back). Maintain length in your spine as you fold forward over your front leg. If your hands are resting on your hips, bring your fingertips to the floor (or blocks) in your fold.
I know that some of these poses might seem a little intimidating to a new beginner, but I promise you that if you shift your focus deep within and move with your breath at your own pace, you will find great relief where you are today.
Don’t do it for the perfection of the pose. Do it for you.
And if you would like a little companionship and a little more guidance, here is a wonderful short flow by Adriene Mishler on letting go.
I hope this has been helpful to you. Try these poses out and let us know you how you feel in the comments below. If you like this content, I think you will LOVE our Yoga for Mental Health free community workshop on Saturday, September 28th at 10 AM. Stacey Reynolds of Blue Yoga Nyla will lead us through a gentle flow for depression, anxiety and addiction and teach us how to do it at home.