Hi friends! We all know that emotions play a very important role in our lives, and, if not addressed and worked through, can cause depression, tension, pain and disease.

Kicking off the month focused on yoga for mental health, we will examine the basics of emotions, their “life cycle” in our bodies, how and where they get stuck, and how it causes us to be depressed and in pain. And in the next post, we will look at the main body parts that hold emotions and go through yoga poses that can help you work through the tensions, become more mindful of your body, and come back to balance and personal power.

Emotions are physical sensations we experience in our bodies when faced with certain situations. They are our subconscious response to outside stimuli.

Emotions are physical and instinctive.

They unleash a set of hormonal and neurochemical responses that produce a state of activation, pushing us to immediate action. Emotions can be measured by  heart rate, brain activity, blood flow, facial expressions, posture and more physical factors.

Emotions can be primary and secondary in nature.

Primary emotions are our first emotional reaction. They’re often followed by a more defended secondary emotion. A lot of the times, we are only consciously aware of the secondary emotion (anger that covers up sadness, or the anxiety masking a deeper fear.)

Emotions are our internal compass.

By tuning into our bodies’ responses to events, people and other outside stimuli, we can distinguish whether the situation is good or bad for us, we can “read” people and navigate complex decision-making. By focusing on emotion with compassion and curiosity, we can discover who we are and what we want. When we live in harmony with our emotions, we become more in touch with who we are. We gain insight into the real core emotions that are causing our reactions, and can take full charge of our lives, health and happiness.

When people are unwilling to feel the emotion through or don’t have the skills to think through the situation, emotions get trapped in the body, causing tensions, pains and feelings of dis-ease. Over time, suppressed emotions develop into depression, we start feeling fatigued, unmotivated, sad and stuck.

Remember:

When we dissociate from our emotions, we dissociate from ourselves. 

So how do we know if we have any unprocessed emotions? Here are 8 symptoms of suppressed emotions that signal you to go within and explore your emotional landscape:

  1. Exhaustion
  2. Poor memory – people who suppress emotions are less aware and less present. Prefrontal cortex is starting to shut down. Moreover, when people suppress emotions, they tend to suppress an entire time period or details around it.
  3. Body tension and deep muscle pain
  4. Weight gain – constant stress increases cortisol levels and disrupts natural cortisol rhythms which reduces natural ability to burn fat
  5. Sleep problems – insomnia, tossing and turning, restless dreams and reduced ability to relax into deep sleep. Brain is constantly trying to resolve the pent-up emotions but is doing so without your help because you are not fully present and have cut yourself off from your emotions.
  6. Digestive problems – research shows that prolonged stress negatively impacts your GI tract and that, in turn, makes you even more depressed as the brain becomes deficient in vital nutrients.
  7. Low motivation – when we suppress negative emotions, we suppress the positive ones as well, and our ability to conceptualize of good future and good outcomes gradually decreases, keeping the motivation low or non-existent.
  8. Aggression – research shows that people who do not react to a situation at hand and suppress their true emotions are very likely to have anger outbursts in other situations.
When we suppress negative emotions, we suppress the positive ones as well. 

As we see, when emotions are suppressed, they stay in our bodies, causing tensions, pain and discomfort. The good news is, that we do not have to keep suffering from tensions in the body and depressed spirit. There are multitude of techniques to release suppressed emotions, and today we will focus on yoga

Yoga can help you be present with your emotions and let them go through the “holy trifecta” – breath, movement and mindfulness. Mindfulness puts you in touch with your body and emotions you might have dissociated from, breathing stimulates the Vagus nerve, turns off fight-or-flight response, induces relaxation,  grounds us in our bodies, and movement, coupled with breathing, moves the emotions out, leaving us at calm, at peace, and renewed.

In the next blog, we will examine the body parts that usually hold most tensions, what emotions are they associated with, and specific yoga poses that can help you work through difficult emotions on the mat. Subscribe to our blog, newsletter, or follow us on Facebook to never miss another article. And if you are in Little Rock, come to 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.

Let us know you are coming!

We hope this has been helpful and look forward to seeing you on Sept. 28th.

– Katya