I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the best at expressing my emotions. When pangs of stress, sadness, or confusion set in, I tend to file them away on a shelf and tell myself I'll deal with them later. In my mind, I always think I'll work through them on the pages of my journal, but unless I'm on vacation, it's nearly impossible to find time when I'm free from distractions and responsibilities.
There's one place I know my emotions can never hide, however, and that's in a hot yoga studio — a sweltering 98-degree room, where I'm guaranteed to sweat, stretch, and even cry. Every single time.
I can actually feel where I'm carrying more tension than the week before, and then focus on relieving that stress.
It took me a long time to become truly comfortable in a group yoga class. It wasn't until my mid-20s that I even gave the practice a try, previously falling prey to the stereotype that yoga was only for the super flexible and fit. You know, the type of people who could tie themselves in a knot and slip right into a full split. Since I was more accustomed to split ends than splitting my body in half, I assumed I should stick to the treadmill or an occasional Zumba class (yes, this was 2009).
The first time I tried yoga alone in my room, I was hooked. And once I stopped caring about how I stacked up against everyone else in class (which I'll admit took some time), I really began to feel the benefits of a group practice — physically, mentally, and emotionally. When I move into downward dog for the first time in that sizzling room, I know there's nothing else I can focus on but surviving the heat. I can't think about the things that are weighing on me, because I need to concentrate on my breath and my form. As my body heats up, I feel more connected to every inch of it, and I'm able to listen to what it's telling me. I can actually feel where I'm carrying more tension than the week before, and then focus on relieving that stress.
When the pace of the class begins to slow and we get to the deep, juicy stretches, then come the tears. If the instructor puts us in pigeon pose, forget about it — I'm sobbing. And it feels so, so good. You see, this is where I can let it all out. I cast out any trepidation that people are looking at me or judging me, and I just let everything I've been bottling up wash over me. Whether it's a fight I had with a close friend, a mistake I made at work, or anxiety about the future, I let it go. I leave feeling like I've not only flushed the toxins from my body, but also from my soul. I take any negativity that's been building up, face it head on, and cry it all out.