The role of emotions in Yin Yoga is a topic that I often see questions about from teachers and my teacher training, or in a Facebook group.
And I want to be clear here that Yin Yoga doesn’t cause emotions. So practicing Yin isn’t what creates the emotions, but the emotions can come up in Yin often come up because we’re finally still And quiet, and we have time.
So emotions that might have been not processed throughout the day, throughout your week, your month, your year, your life.
The emotions you’ve been kind of pushing to the side because you’re busying yourself, being a human doing instead of a human being.
Whether this is yourself or your students, those emotions don’t have anywhere to go and they just hang there and wait until there’s a time to release them, to process them.
And I want to talk a little bit about, how there are these things that we say in the Yoga verse that are not accurate or helpful.
So I’m also going to talk a little bit about some of the mistakes that teachers make are things they say in class.
So here we go. It’s going to be an emotional ride, pun intended. Take a moment to grab your tea, your coffee, and your headphones. If you’re going out for a walk. If you’re going for a drive, settle in and we’ll get into this.
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Okay. So emotions in Yin yoga, this is something that I often see, um, questions about from teachers and my teacher trainings, or whether it’s just a Facebook group
And I want to be clear here that yin yoga doesn’t cause emotions, right? So practicing yin isn’t what creates the emotions, but the emotions that can come up in yin often come up because we’re finally still And quiet, and we have time. So emotions that might have been not processed throughout the day, throughout your week, your month, your year, your life, that you’ve been kind of pushing to the side because you’re busying yourself, doing a, being a human, doing instead of a human being, whether this is yourself or your students, then those emotions don’t have anywhere to go and they just hang there and wait.
Until [00:02:00] there’s a time to release them, to process them. And I want to talk a little bit about, how there are these things that we say in the yoga verse that are not accurate and b helpful. So I’m going to talk a little bit about that. Some of the mistakes that teachers make are things they say in class.
We’re not going to dive a ton into Taoist thought and TCM and the emotions that are connected to the seasons and the meridians. That can be episodes for the future, but I will briefly touch on where sharing that information, no matter how well intended, if you’re not well educated, is that. Can be problematic.
So here we go. It’s going to be an emotional ride, pun intended. [00:03:00] Take a moment to grab your tea, your coffee, your headphones. If you’re going out for a walk. If you’re going for a drive, settle in and we’ll get into this. So before I start talking about emotions in general and yin and what I see both from students and from teachers, I want to share a little story.
When I was, studying with Paul Grilley I was in California sitting at the little kitchenette area that’s outside the land of the medicine Buddha. And there was myself and a couple of other of my colleagues, a couple of other students that were also studying with Paul. And I had studied with both of them before.
So they were familiar to me. So we’re just kind of sitting and some of us are working on our laptops and, the conversation comes up about emotions. One of them says, Oh, wow. Have I ever been processing a lot of [00:04:00] emotions? So many emotions have come up, in my practice.
And then the other one’s like, yeah, I know, right? Like, holy smokes, that, you know, swan pose pigeon for those of you who don’t speak Yin I was having an emotional time in that pose. And then they both kind of looked at me like your turn, please share. And I have to say, I haven’t had a big emotional release in yoga.
I have been moved to tears in a good way, many times in yoga. whether it’s just because the energy of the room is so beautiful, or the space is so beautiful, or what the teacher said is so beautiful, or the music has moved me, who knows? It could be a multitude of things. I’m one of those people that I often say is [00:05:00] leaky, meaning I’m easily moved to tears.
So I have had that experience many, many times in a yoga class, but I haven’t had an experience where I get into shape. And I full-on experience grief or where, or sadness or tears or where I get into a shape and I experience anger or frustration, to a strong degree I’ve experienced boredom and, of mild irritation and poses that I don’t like that much.
That’s about it. And so when I told them, I hadn’t had a big release. In a yin practice or any yoga practice, actually, emotionally, they looked at me and did this sort of mean girl, impersonation and looked at me and kind of squinted their eyes and were like, yet, [00:06:00] like as if, because I hadn’t sobbed on my yoga mat, I just wasn’t, you know, evolved enough or I hadn’t, I hadn’t experienced it yet, but just wait, it’s coming.
And I remember at the time thinking. That is so arrogant.
Not only is it arrogant for them to assume that what they’ve gone through is some sort of, experience that everybody’s going to have, but also arrogant of them to assume that the only way to process emotions is on your yoga mat. Now, I’m not saying it’s not a great way to process emotions.
Absolutely. Some people. Raises her hand, maybe release their emotions in other ways, like in a good chat with a friend or crying on their partner’s shoulder [00:07:00] or watching kitten rescue videos in the bathtub or, in a journal, with a therapist that we can heal and release our emotions.
And sometimes they come up in yoga. And if they do, we want to hold brave space for that. Talk more about that in a moment. We can’t assume that just because somebody hasn’t had some sort of huge emotional release in a yoga pose they’re like, you know, they’re just not experienced enough. They’re not advanced enough.
You know, it’s coming. Just wait. So I wanted to share that experience before we sort of dove into today’s topic, because what I often see happen with yoga teachers in the yoga verse, and I don’t know where this comes from. I don’t know if this is because it’s what they’ve learned from their teachers or if they’ve just gone.
I’ve read one too many New Age books, I [00:08:00] have no idea where it comes from, but we can get this idea sometimes, and I’ve heard teachers say, your grief is held in the blank body part. Your rage is held in blank body parts. Your sadness lives here in your body. This is irresponsible. First of all, there is no universal place where grief is stored in the body.
It will vary from individual to individual. Now I should be clear to say, that I’m not saying that we don’t hold emotions and traumas and tensions in our body that can be released in a yoga practice which can bring up emotions. I believe that’s the case. The body keeps the score, for example. You have not read that book.
You can check that out. So I believe that we do have these memories and these emotions stored in our tissues, especially if we didn’t process them at the time or spent time processing [00:09:00] them, you know, shortly thereafter for however long it takes something like grief, for example, it’s not like you can just, shake a little bit, do a trauma release and just be over that grief.
Grief takes so much time. So I wanted to mention this because. When you tell your students, dear teacher, or students, if you’ve heard this, you will experience your grief in this body part or your rage in this body part. Then if your student does not experience that, they feel like they’re doing something wrong.
I’m going to say that again. When you give prescriptive formulas to your students about where they should be feeling emotions in their body, then if they don’t feel it there, They think they’re doing something wrong. And actually, all that’s happening is that you are projecting either your own experience [00:10:00] or things you’ve learned in training or read in books on your student’s experience.
And this, in my opinion, I’m sorry, I’m going to call you out here for a second, is irresponsible. First of all, as a yoga teacher, you are not a therapist, unless you are a therapist. So your role for helping your students with their emotions is quite small, and it should be, because we’re not qualified for that.
And even as a yoga therapist who took lots of additional training on these topics, it’s out of my scope of practice. To be telling my students where they should be feeling things in their body, what emotions they should be dealing with or how to process their emotions of that, is not in my professional capacity.
And unless you are a counsellor or a licensed psychotherapist, it’s also not yours. [00:11:00] Sorry. Truth bomb. So. When we say grief lives here, rage lives here, sadness lives here, or whatever we may be saying, then we’re making a lot of assumptions about our student’s body and their emotions and their process that are not accurate.
Not everybody feels their emotions in the same places. Not every pose will release emotions for everybody. So these blanket statements that we make, we have to watch these as yoga teachers. We have to realize that our students are individuals, they have their path. And yes, we can speak from our own experience, but we have to speak from our own experience in a way that we’re saying from my experience or in my practice, or when I [00:12:00] was going through, this is what happened.
It might be different for you, might be different for them. So if you have been studying yin yoga in depth at all. And you’ve come across Paul Grilley’s work, especially that Anatomy for Yoga DVD, where he breaks down skeletal variations. You will know that. And if you have not dear yoga teacher, and you’re listening to this, you must, you simply must buy that presentation.
It used to be on DVD. It’s now streaming. There’s a link in the show notes for you. But if you’ve already gone through that information, if you already acknowledge skeletal variations, and some people are internally rotated in their hips, some people are externally rotated in their hips, etc, etc. If you acknowledge that we all have different bones, we all have different skeletons, and so we’re not all going to look the same in the poses, then why would you assume that everybody is going to have the same [00:13:00] emotional response in a pose?
I know that it’s well-intentioned. But it comes from a place of hubris and ignorance. And I don’t mean ignorance in the way that it’s used in a slang way now, which means stupid. It means uninformed, uneducated on a subject. That’s what ignorance means. So it comes from a place of ignorance and hubris, not from a place of humility and being open to what your students are experiencing.
So there’s my kind of initial little smackdown. For those teachers, if you’ve been listening to this and you’re like, Oh shit, I do that. I do that all the time. That’s okay. Now, you know, when we know we can change the way we do things, if we, if we feel like it’s worthwhile. So I just wanted to preface that first, that you cannot say to your students, grief lives here.
Blah, blah, blah. It lives here. [00:14:00] Even. In TCM theory, because that again is an oversimplification and I’ll briefly touch on that near towards the end of the episode. So if you’re chomping up the bit for that, just hang tough with me. Okay, so what is the role of emotions? Well, if you’re dealing with human beings, which if you’re a teacher, you are, or if you are a practitioner, you’re probably dealing with human beings.
Then we’re going to be dealing with emotions. We’re going to have people’s traumas and all those things. And I just want to mention that in this particular episode, I’m going to kind of stick to emotions. I’m not going to talk a lot about trauma, simply because we’ll have future episodes on that.
Probably more than one where we can dive a bit deeper into that. So it’s not that I think that trauma and emotions are separate from each other. I do not think that at all. I’m just trying to keep things simple. And on task and on topic, I’m also not going to talk a lot about the mind because we’ve [00:15:00] already had an episode on the mind where we talk about the thinking and the planning and what the mind does in Yin and how we can help our students, , with the busyness of their brain or the anxiety or things like that.
Instead, I want this episode to be primarily about emotions and how they can come up in practice. Both as a student and as a teacher and also a good chunk of this will be, talking to teachers about what to do when your student is having an emotional experience in your class. Because I think that dealing with that or helping with that is really tricky to stay in your scope of practice and to be a compassionate force in the room and to allow them their space to experience their emotions.
We’ll talk about that in a moment. Another story. [00:16:00] When I was teaching, in a yoga therapy program, I was teaching their 20 hour yin module for a while. One of the teachers came up to me afterwards and thanked me for letting her know in my little few minutes of talking at the beginning that when we practice yin, thoughts and emotions can come up and that it’s not the yin practice that’s making the emotion happen.
The emotion is already in there. It’s just hiding somewhere. What we’re doing in the yin practice is because it’s a still quiet, hopefully nurturing space where we’re in shapes for a long time, so we’re not distracting ourselves by moving quickly from one thing to the next. When that happens, then the emotions that were always there, [00:17:00] we’re just waiting for the right moment, kind of percolate and come to the surface sometimes for some people.
And so this can happen in a yin practice. So if you’re a student and that’s happened, please know you’re normal or a teacher. If teachers, if you see this happening again, I’m going to give some insights that I have gleamed from my own years of practice and my yoga therapy studies on what we can do about those situations.
So this teacher came up and she mentioned thanking me for that because she had only done one yin yoga class before previously and actually she told me she didn’t even want to be in that training but she had to be because it was part of the program because her first experience in yin was so uncomfortable that she just was on edge the whole time because the teacher didn’t mention, by the way, when they’re still in quiet, you’re probably going to think a lot or worry or analyze or write lists. And by the way, if there’s any emotions [00:18:00] that you’ve been like pushing down or putting in the pile the pile late named later, I’ll deal with that later they can come up, right.
It was never discussed. And so when it came up for her, she thought it was the yin that was the issue. I hate this style of yoga because it made me so emotional. It made me think so much, blah, blah, blah. When I addressed it, just briefly in just a few moments at the start of class, she was able to understand that this is just part of the process that when we get still and quiet for a while, things will come up.
And so she thanked me for that. So I just wanted to mention that. Now, that being said, I don’t, when I teach my regular weekly yin yoga classes, . When emotions come up, I’ll deal with them if they come up, but what I don’t do is in my little, Hey, if you’re new to yoga speech, I don’t [00:19:00] include by the way, emotions can come up here simply because. Most of the time, there actually isn’t a whole lot of emotionality in the room, and I don’t want people to feel like they’re not yin yoga-ing right.
And I also don’t want to plant seeds that, in this pose, this emotion may come up for them. I do talk a lot about the mind in the beginning. When I bring in emotions, as far as how I verbally address it when I’m teaching, is when it becomes present in the room. So let me explain in some detail because there’s nuance to this.
So it’s not like I see someone start crying and then I immediately say, Oh, by the way, did you know that grief might be coming up for you, blah, blah, blah. I don’t address it right there in that detail in that moment.[00:20:00]
Unfortunately, in our culture. We don’t let people have these, what we call negative emotions. I’m doing air quotes for those of you who are listening, right? We’re not comfortable culturally with sadness, with grief, with anger, with rage, with frustration, irritation, impatience. Those are the ones that we have deemed culturally bad emotions.
And so we’re not comfortable with them. And so if somebody is already in a public space, And the sadness is coming up, and they’re dealing with it on their mat. In my opinion, they’re already being so brave and so vulnerable that I’m certainly not going to shine a spotlight on them. So how do we address it then?
Well, Usually what I’ll do is if I see [00:21:00] that somebody is having sort of an emotional experience, and I’m mostly here talking about things like sadness and grief and irritation and patience, anger, rage, that kind of stuff, because those are the ones that are challenging for us, right? To deal with. If our student is smiling or glowing or experiencing joy, I mean, obviously we don’t feel like we need to do anything about that because we’re comfortable with that emotion.
But when a student Maybe, for example, starts crying. If we’re not careful, we can feel like, and I see this a lot with teachers, like it’s our job to fix that. I’m going to say that again. When we see our students crying, oftentimes teachers will say that they somehow feel of responsibility to fix that. So there’s a [00:22:00] couple of things to pick apart here.
The first one is that that is not something to be fixed. A normal, healthy processing of emotion for someone who feels safe enough in the space to do so should be celebrated, not fixed. They may not have other spaces or places in their life where they can be comfortable and raw enough and vulnerable enough to release these emotions.
Culturally, we’re uncomfortable with tears. You see it all the time, even with children. I saw it just the other day. I was at a beach, little guy fell down. First thing the mom started doing is, you’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay. Trying to get him to stop crying. You’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay. And yes, this comes from a well intentioned place, but here’s the thing.
It’s okay to [00:23:00] not be okay. And when you reach out to someone, when they’re having an emotional response, because it’s making you uncomfortable, Whether this is conscious or subconscious, and it’s often subconscious. If someone else’s emotional response is making you uncomfortable, you can, if you’re not hip to it, you’re not aware of it, feel the urge unconsciously to fix it so that that emotion isn’t there anymore, thereby you can now be comfortable.
So dear yoga teacher, when you see a student having an emotional experience, If you feel like you need to rush in on your white horse and fix that problem, stop and ask yourself, why? Because I will bet you that at the root of that is that you aren’t comfortable [00:24:00] with their emotional release. And so if you go and help them, air quotes again, or fix it, you don’t have to experience that discomfort anymore.
But here’s the thing, that’s your cross to bear. Not theirs. I’m going to share another story on this because I think that stories are so illustrative. How do I know this? This theory that I’ve come up with that part of the reason that most of us want to go and rush in and save the day when our students having an emotion is because of our own discomfort.
How do I know this? Because I’ve been there, my friends. There was a large chunk of my life Where, when somebody that I loved, adored, a friend, a family member, et cetera, my partner was confiding in me about something that was going on that was, you know, what I thought [00:25:00] was a air quotes, a negative emotion or a uncomfortable experience, I would try to fix it.
I would try to give them advice or solutions. I would silver lining it, you know, I would. Well, at least you, I would try to gratitude practice that shit away. I would, , try to bring them back to perspective. I did that for years. Now I didn’t know at the time that that’s what I was doing. I didn’t know at the time that I was uncomfortable with the emotional state that they were in.
And so that was subconscious, right? Like beneath the surface. And so because I wasn’t comfortable with it, I was trying to fix it. I was trying to offer solutions. Instead of just being a solid, steady, compassionate presence [00:26:00] for them to explore it, And for me to hold brave space for that. So how did I get from there to knowing that that’s what I was doing?
Well, as we often do in our own lives, we have these breakdowns to breakthrough experiences. So there was a time in my life when I moved to Victoria and things were not stable, things were not settled, things were not secure, things did not feel safe. I had left everything that was safe and secure and familiar behind, including my support network.
I was in a new city, threw myself into going back to school full time in my forties with a very intense course load and subject matter of Chinese medicine. And I was melting down, y’all, like brought to my knees. Many times. So what I didn’t know before that was that I’ve always had anxiety. I didn’t know that I had [00:27:00] anxiety because I have what I call high functioning anxiety, meaning I’m anxious, but I’ll still get all the shit done.
And so I don’t appear to be an anxious person, both by the outside world, sort of silly definitions of anxiety, and also by my own misunderstanding of what anxiety was. But when I moved and all safety and security was gone and all these new experiences, it was more than I could cope with. And the anxiety was going through the roof.
I was having physical symptoms. I wasn’t sleeping. I was losing weight. It was not a happy time. And when I was going through that, I noticed that there were two kinds of people in my life. There were the people that wanted to fix it. Now they had very good intentions. Very good intentions. I was weak and vulnerable and fragile and messy and that made them uncomfortable.
And so they just wanted to fix it. And so they would do [00:28:00] things for me, like take me to go buy groceries or something like that. But again, it was all them trying to rush in and fix the situation so that I would then be okay. So that then they could feel okay. And then there was the group of people that were able to just really be there.
If they had some of their own relatable experience, of course, they would share it, but not as a, Hey, here’s the answer to your problem, but just as a, Oh, I’ve been there. I see you. Those people would just listen and be there for me. And they would ask me what it was that I needed help with in those times instead of just assuming that they had the answer and trying to put a silver lining on everything and trying to , spiritually bypass through that experience.[00:29:00]
So this is when it hit me that, Oh, I’m a mess right now. And there’s two different approaches here happening with the people in my life. There’s the people that can hold the space for the mess. And, support me in whatever way that I need. And then there’s the people that are uncomfortable with me being a mess.
And especially because this was not a familiar thing to people in my life. Like I said, highly functioning anxiety. So this was unfamiliar. And some people, when it was unfamiliar and it made them feel uncomfortable, just tried to solution their way out of my anxiety. They just give me enough solutions.
Then, you know, that would be helpful, but anyone who’s been , in a state of kind of a mental, I don’t want to say breakdown because I wasn’t hospitalized or anything, but it could have been if I hadn’t found some good tools. Um, but anyone who’s been through something like that knows that [00:30:00] giving me more things to do that are supposed to help me with the state that I’m in, not helpful, already not functioning, already not able to do things.
So what was helpful is the people that would just ask me what I needed. So this is why I know that there is this tendency, even in heartfelt, well meaning individuals, we can want to rush in on our white horse and save the day. But here’s the thing, dear yoga teacher, that’s not your job. First of all, you are not professionally qualified to rush in and save the day.
You’re not a therapist, you’re not a psychotherapist. And even if you were, therapists don’t rescue their clients. Right. The only person who saves their own day is themselves. Can you offer space as a yoga teacher? Yes. Can you offer compassion? [00:31:00] Yes. Can you offer resources? Yes. But it is not your job to air quotes, fix how your students are feeling and how they’re feeling is not problem.
Okay. Oh, it’s getting heavy in here. It’s getting feisty. Take a moment. Pause for a deep breath. Take a deep breath. I’ll take a sip of matcha and we’ll continue.
Okay. So what do we do then? Practically, I’m talking to the teachers here. What do we practically do? Although those of you that are not teachers, if you’re listening, this might help you in your interpersonal relationships with other people as well. Okay, so here’s the scenario. We’re teaching our class, and we can see that someone’s crying, and they’re not just like the little trickling kind of move to tears crying.
They’re like [00:32:00] crying, like ,it’s a lot of tears might even be, you know, audible. What do you do? first I would say, and this is just my own personal process. I wait for a little, while until they’ve settled a bit. Right. So I’m not going to jump right in immediately and talk about how emotions can come up in a, in a yoga practice right when they just start, because again, I’m not.
I’m not trying to shine a spotlight on them. They’re probably already feeling pretty vulnerable and uncomfortable. So I’m just going to let them have that space. But as they settle a bit, I might say, you know, the mind is a big component of the Yin practice, but you know, also our emotions are as well.
Sometimes as humans, I know I’ve done this, , we get so busy just living our lives that we don’t really process the emotions that we’re going through. And then we come to a yin yoga class where we’re [00:33:00] still in quiet and we’re not distracted and oh, lo and behold, there they are. And just know that’s okay.
That’s a normal part of the process. So, first of all, I wait a little while, and then I’ll say that. Notice I didn’t say anything about sadness or grief or any specific emotion. I just said emotions in a general way. As humans, this is what we tend to do. We get all busy, we do our things, we don’t process things, then we come and we’d be still and quiet and, oh, there it is, didn’t go anywhere.
So I address it, number one, I address it, number two, I normalize it. And then I just let them do what they need to do. Now again, at a point when they have start to settle a little bit. I will often get up, and now I teach in a trauma informed space, so I let people know when I’m getting up.
So I’ll say, I’m just getting up to move around the room, to help others get more comfortable. If you hear my [00:34:00] voice traveling, that’s what’s going on. And I will just gently slide a box of tissues over to that yoga mat where the person was crying. Now, why do I wait to do it? Because if you do this too soon, you could be sending them the signal that it’s not okay to be crying.
Remember, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. We don’t want our students to feel like that’s what we’re doing. Here’s some tissues. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. So the reason I wait until they’re near the end of it is because they’re really going to need it by then, anyways, probably snotting and tearing all over the place, but also so that they’ve had a chance to work through and process some of it, and me sliding them the box of tissues is just a way to let them know that I’m here, and I’ve seen them, I’ve witnessed them, that I’m holding space for them.[00:35:00]
So that’s all I do. Okay, so let’s say now we’re at the end of class. How do we handle it now? I have two other scenarios I’ll mention in a moment, but okay, so let’s say they, they cried for a while on their mat, you slid them some tissues, they probably used them, and now they’re leaving. What do you do then?
Well, it depends on the relationship that you have with that student. So if you know this student very well, you’ve been practicing together for a long time, you’re very familiar, very comfortable. Then, maybe you can address it and say, how are you doing? You really want to watch your student’s body language.
If they just kind of quickly grab their stuff. And don’t look up at you and shuffle out of the room, do not engage with them that all that body language is. I felt really vulnerable. I’m a little bit embarrassed. I want to go be by myself to process this. So don’t engage with them. Just let them do their [00:36:00] thing.
If you know them well, and you do get a chance to connect with them on the way out, if they do say something to you or look at you, if they make eye contact, and you know them well, you could say, how are you doing? And if they say something like, I’m just experienced a bunch of grief, or this is what’s going on for me.
You can ask them, do you have resources to help you through that? Because guess what? Dear yoga teacher, you are not that resource. Again, you are not a therapist unless you are a therapist. So it’s always a good idea to know a few good therapists in your in your city and to have their numbers and names in your phone or some cards in your wallet, because people will need the resource.
So you can ask them, do you feel supported in this do you have resources to help you with this? And if they say no, then you can say, I know a great therapist who helps with this. I can pass on their [00:37:00] card if you’d like. If they say yes, yeah, I’m good. I’ve, you know, I’ve got friends, I’ve got family, I’ve got a partner, I’ve got therapists, whatever, then you can just say something like, okay take care. so this is if you know the student well. If you do not know the student well, if they make eye contact with you or they kind of glance at you, even if it’s a bit sheepishly as they leave, I just smile. That’s all. I just give them a smile
because I don’t know them well enough to inquire further now if somebody came up to me after class that I didn’t know and they asked me for resources, hell yeah, I’m going to give those out. Right. But I’m not going to take a student who may have just dropped into my class for the first time and start pushing business cards on them for therapists.
It’s like an overstep. And again, if they kind of rush out of the room, sort of sheepishly grabbing their stuff, looking down at the ground, [00:38:00] I’m not going to do anything. I’m going to let them just have that experience, knowing that they were in the room, that they were able to cry or whatever the case may be.
And that that they were in a place where that was allowed.
So that’s how I deal with it. I was talking specifically here about grief or sadness or tears. So in the moment, I let them experience it. Once it starts to subside a little bit, so I’ll mention the emotions generally, and then I may, at some point, slide a box of tissues over if there’s time for all of that and their crying has subsided a little bit.
Just so that they know that I’m not ignoring them and their experience, but that I’m giving them space and at the same time offering what little supports I can in my scope of practice. [00:39:00] Tissues definitely in my scope of practice. Okay. So then what do you do? So that’s if they stay in the room. Now, what do we do if they leave?
Well, there’s two leaving situations typically. Sometimes a student will leave and then they’ll come back. So they leave, they go to the washroom, they maybe cry a bit, they kind of splash their face with water or whatever, and they come back. In that case, I would handle it exactly the same way I did the previous one at the end.
If they’re a familiar student, I’m, and they look at my face on the way out. I might say, Hey, how you doing? If they’re not a familiar student and they do make eye contact or look at me, I’ll just smile at them. So same, same. If they don’t look at me, then I just let them go. Let them have their, let them have their experience.
If they leave and they don’t come back, there isn’t anything that I do. I don’t follow them out. I don’t leave the room [00:40:00] to go see how someone is. Because here’s the thing you’ve got how many other people in that room that you are also holding space for you are also supposed to be in a position of guiding.
And so you can’t run away and talk to one person. And also they probably don’t want you to, if they wanted you to, they’ll stick around they’ll come back in, maybe, and then they may look at your face they’ll give you signs if you pay attention. So that’s sadness. That’s how I deal with grief, sadness, et cetera, et cetera.
And again, the reason that I’m able to say this now about the rushing in on your white horse trying to save the day is because I used to be that person. There’s a wonderful video, an animation that was put to one of Brene Brown’s speeches. On this thing that we do where we’re uncomfortable with someone’s emotions.
So I’m going to, I’ll find that video and I will share it in the show [00:41:00] notes. So when you can click on it and you’ll find all the links and I’ll share that there because I think it’s really worth watching, especially if this either was not something you’d ever considered or kind of hit a nerve with you, I would definitely watch that little video.
So other emotions that can come up, of course, the whole emotional spectrum can come up any in class. I’m dealing with the ones that we as a society and teachers might consider problematic or uncomfortable because obviously if our student is lying in a state we’re not going to feel pressured to do something about that. So let’s talk about the other one and the other one that I often will see, and it can start with something as minor as boredom, fidgety, impatience, irritation. Now, I want to just be clear that fidgeting can also be a nervous system response.
And a trauma thing and again, I’m not addressing that part of fidgeting right now because we will have a whole episode [00:42:00] or a few maybe on trauma in the future. I’m just talking about that kind of like, you know, high strong A type personality person who hasn’t maybe done yin before and is just like, are we still just laying here?
What the heck is going on? And they’re kind of looking around the room and, , to see if everyone else is still laying around. And so that kind of fidgeting. So it can start with something as small and simple as boredom and fidgety, and then depending on the personality type and what the person’s going through, it can go right into like impatience and irritation and even anger.
So how do we deal with that? I name it. I always feel like it’s a better idea to address a time when you felt that way so that people don’t feel called out. Right. Use yourself as the example. You know, when I first started practicing Yin, I always found that I was kind of like impatient.
Like it was hard for me to settle or, you know, on days when I’ve had a lot going on, [00:43:00] I find it really hard to just kind of settle into the stillness and be okay with that in this practice. You know, I get like bored and frustrated and irritated and impatient and, , just know if that ever comes up for you, it’s totally normal.
So I addressed it, I normalized it. And I spoke from my own experience because that’s the only experience you can speak from. You cannot speak from your students experience because you are not them and you are not inside of them. You do not know their thoughts and their feelings. I relate it to my own experience.
Sometimes when I’m practicing in, I get bored, I get fidgety, I get impatient. . And then you can address the fact that culturally, we are not encouraged to be still and quiet. And so it’s unfamiliar.
It’s confusing. Our body’s like, what do we do with this? What do you mean? I’m not supposed to be rushing somewhere? I’m not supposed to be doing all the things? How do we deal with this? Right, so just addressing it in a sort of general societal way as well. Again, we don’t [00:44:00] want to be drawing attention to any one individual student and , taking a laser pointer and shining it on their experience.
So that’s how I deal with that one.
Anxiety is a bit of a tricky one because as anxiety can be mental and emotional both. If I see it coming up, I just, in a neutral way, address it. In a neutral, non specific way, worries, thoughts, thought loops, things like that. You know, again, I talked more about the mind in another episode and you know, we often think that anxiety is in our brain.
It’s not really, it’s actually also in our body and it’s also an emotion that gets complex. So I’ll leave it in the previous one of the mind simply because that’s how most of us think of anxiety. But of course, anxiety has a physical embodied root as well.[00:45:00]
So those are some of the ways that emotions can come up in a yin practice. The ones that I’ve witnessed or that I witness, more on the regular. And again, I’ve only really addressed sort of the range of sadness and grief and the range of irritation and patience, frustration, et cetera, because those are the ones that will trip us up both as a student or as a teacher.
And I can’t count how many times I’ve seen in some yoga teacher, Facebook group, a newer teacher saying, what do I do when people cry in my class? Yeah, you don’t do anything. You let them cry. And that’s not easy to do. Especially if you tend to be, and most yoga teachers are, the sort of helper type, right?
Person who wants to help.[00:46:00]
Just consider that actually you fixing their emotional state in that moment, that’s not helping you may or may not have heard this term spiritual bypassing. Spiritual bypassing is what happens when We are uncomfortable with the situation. And so we don’t experience it. We don’t process it. And we just kind of leap to, you know, affirmations, good vibes only, and, you know, silver linings and don’t forget about your gratitude journal and all of that.
So I mentioned that the reason that I was able to transition from sort of being that person that thinks that it’s my job to help and fix to being able to just sit in the muck with people in the dark with people and hold space. For them to have their experience is because I had an experience in my life of , two opposite personality [00:47:00] types and how they supported me.
And then it became crystal clear how, despite the fact that I thought I was helping people that I wasn’t, I actually reached out to a couple of people too. Afterwards. And just explain to them that, I have recently had this aha, and I realized now that in some of our relationship when you’ve come to me that I was trying to fix it.
And although it came from a good intention place, it probably didn’t feel very supportive. I’m really sorry about that. So this may be new to you, that it’s not your job to fix everything. If it is, Just sit with it. And dear teacher, if this is you, if you’re like, I’m ringing your bell here, then when it comes up, I want you to just sit with it in the moment and ask yourself, why do I feel like I need to fix this?[00:48:00]
Just drop that question into the space between your muscles and your bones and resist the urge. The urge will be there. You don’t have to follow the urge again, allow your students some space subtle little things, subtle little winks to holding space and being compassionate to them is enough.
You don’t need to rush in and try to save the day. You need to let them have their experience and then just be there to support it in whatever way, you can within your scope of practice. And without making them feel more uncomfortable, and I get that this is a fine line, right, for us. It’s a very fine line.
So that’s a little bit of a breakdown of the roles of emotions, just generally what comes up in class, what can we do about it. And now I’ll just talk a little bit, very briefly, about the TCM model and emotions, [00:49:00] because here’s what else I see. Have you ever heard the phrase, a little bit of information is a dangerous thing.
So those of you that are yoga teachers, if you remember back to your first training, and I’m sure we all did this when you started learning about the chakras. Did you not just go and start psychoanalyzing every single person in your life and which chakras you thought of theirs were blocked, et cetera, et cetera.
So this is what I mean. A little bit of information is a dangerous thing. So in Traditional Chinese medicine, and I’m not going to go through all of the five elements and the organs and the emotions and the spirits that are associated with them all. Cause again, future times. But we, if we’ve studied a little or dabbled a little, and when I say dabbled a little, that could even be your yoga teacher training.
That is what I would consider dabbling in Traditional Chinese medicine. If your teacher presented it, [00:50:00] if you actually want to study that’s a whole other level of training. I know because I did just over two and a half years of it at a Chinese medicine college. So when we have a little bit of information and we remember in our teacher training, for example, the teacher saying, Oh, grief is connected to the lung meridian and the element of metal and the season of fall is just one example.
Then we can think, Oh, okay. So if my client or my student is grieving, I should give them shapes that open up their lung meridian. No, don’t do that. You are taking a philosophical concept. From a tradition that you have not studied deeply, and you’re trying to offer body based solutions on that, again, beyond your scope of practice, it’s not that simple in Chinese medicine, all of the organs and emotions and [00:51:00] seasons and elements are Relational to each other. So it’s not as simple as saying. Oh, you’re grieving. All right I’m gonna give you some stuff to open up that lung meridian wide In fact, that might be the worst thing that you could give them When we are in a state of high emotion or grief, when we’re right in it, we’re in the thick of it.
If you’ve ever seen somebody who’s sad or yourself been sad, the posture that we naturally, instinctively embody is to curl inward, to close the heart gently, to round our shoulders forward, fetal positions, child’s pose, things like that. And for you to then go in as a yoga teacher and say, Oh, you’re instinctively doing this shape with your body because you’re sad right now, but I’m going to give you something else.
Cause I know better than that. I’m going to tell you, lay over [00:52:00] this bolster and open your arms out to the side. Get that lung meridian wide open, irresponsible. In fact, unless you are a Chinese medicine practitioner, an acupuncturist, an herbalist, a Chinese medicine doctor, or have studied these things in depth, maybe medical Qigong, I think they do a bit of it in like shiatsu trainings.
If you have not dove deep into those studies. Then you should not be using those, that knowledge, the little tiny nuggets that you got in your training. They’re just little ones as a way to diagnose and treat your students. Because number one, you are not a doctor, nor are you a therapist. So this is good information for you to have these little TCM Taoist nuggets.
To keeping your back pocket, they’re great way for you to maybe [00:53:00] understand what somebody’s going through, but they are not designed to be prescriptions for you to dole out as you see fit based on a tiny bit of information. Again, we have to avoid hubris and ignorance, and we have to stay humble in the case of this.
It’s often the case of you don’t know all the things that you don’t know. So please watch that tendency. Again, if you are also an acupuncturist, you’ve done some in depth Chinese medicine studies, you’re a Chinese medicine doctor, this is a different story, but you already know that. You already know I’m not talking to you.
I’m talking to those teachers that go through a program with a tiny bit of TCM and then start sprinkling that stuff everywhere. Like it’s spiritual glitter or something. Please don’t do that. Now, here’s the thing. What you can do, and you have to of course get your students permission. [00:54:00] Is if you’re working one on one with somebody and they are already seeing a Chinese medicine practitioner or, acupuncturist and you are trying to create a healthcare team, if they’re okay with it, you could ask them, can I reach out to your acupuncturist, your TCM doctor, and just find out what yoga shapes I could offer that would support their diagnosis.
There’s the key there. You are not diagnosing. The acupuncturist, the TCM doctor is diagnosing the medical Qigong practitioner, whatever they’re in charge of. Here’s what’s going on. And here’s the root of it. And then you take that information. If you have studies in this area, and if you don’t, and by studies, I don’t mean you got it from a book and you have studies in that area.
Now you might be able to create a custom program that will help support the work [00:55:00] that the acupuncturist is doing. But if you have not studied TCM in depth and you have. If you’ve only just read this stuff in a book, then please just use it as interesting information to offer in a seasonal workshop, which is typically what I do, unless I’m working privately with a student, I don’t go all into this TCM diagnosis, emotion stuff.
And I have studied it instead I may see their experience through that lens of my eyes, because that’s how my mind works. But I’m not going to start giving them prescriptive poses based on whatever it is that, is going on. I’m not going to say, Oh, you’re experiencing sadness that is attached to the lung meridian.
So now we will do only poses that open the lung meridian or more accurately the sinew channel of the lung meridian. That again is an episode for another time. So dear [00:56:00] teachers, I realized that for some of you, this might’ve been a bit of a triggering episode. I’m sorry about that, what happens when we get triggered growth happens.
So discomfort equals growth. So if you were listening to this and you were wincing or you were feeling called out, please know I’m not calling you out. I don’t even know who you are. I don’t know who’s listening. I’m just calling out patterns that I see and also trying to hold us as yoga professionals to a higher standard, right?
It’s a bit of the wild wild west in yoga, which sometimes I’m really grateful for and sometimes makes me cringe. So, we have to hold ourselves to a high standard. And if you are a teacher who really struggles with how do I hold space for a student to experience what they’re experiencing and process what they’re processing without rushing in with the savior syndrome, if you really are struggling with how to do that, I would actually [00:57:00] recommend that you find a therapist, not necessarily for you to see, although that’s a great idea too, but maybe somebody that you can.
You know, pay them for their time, let them know that this is something that you experience and just ask them if they can teach you. So they do this all the time. Therapists do this. They’re able to sit back from a place of. Unattachment. Now, I want to be clear when I’m saying unattached, I don’t mean detached.
I don’t mean cold. I don’t mean insensitive. I mean that they’re able to sit and witness what their clients are going through, what their patients are going through without getting all caught up in trying to fix it. And so if you really struggle with this, maybe you pay for a few sessions with the therapist and pick their brain a little bit about this and they can offer you some guidance on like what you can do in the moment.
It starts by just witnessing your discomfort with it and asking yourself why, okay, my student is crying. [00:58:00] I feel like I want to go rush over there and save the day, but I’m not going to do that. And I’m going to instead sit here, going to hold brave space. I’m going to ask myself, why do I feel the need to fix that?
Why do I feel the need to try to fix that? And what you might discover is either. Saviorism is part of your personality and that’s something to look at, or that actually it’s just that you’re uncomfortable with their emotions. And although it wasn’t conscious that you wanting to go fix their experience is to make you more comfortable.
Okay, let’s leave it with that. I’m sure that this one is going to get lots of feedback, lots of blowback. So again, I’m ready for it, but we have to, as yoga professionals, we have to step the standard up. We have to be professional. We have to stay within our [00:59:00] scope of practice. We have to not offer advice that isn’t solicited and that we don’t actually know enough about.
We have to be humble and we have to stay in our lane and we have to know what is our job and what is not our job. And we also have to be able to offer our clients and our students more support and resources of others that are highly trained in these areas if they ask for them. Okay, friends, that’s what I got.
Started off with an episode about emotions and how they come up in yin and ended up being a soapbox on teaching yoga and professionalism, but it’s all related. It’s all related. Okay, my friends, I hope that you got something out of this. If you are feeling a bit raw right now, again, opportunity to sit and go, Huh, I found this episode real hard to listen to.
This was pushing some of my buttons. It’s that is an opportunity for [01:00:00] exploration and for asking yourself questions, but why that is. All right, my friends, if you have not already. If you’ve been listening along to this podcast and you’ve been enjoying it, would you please follow or subscribe and take a moment to leave a rating?
I’d be super grateful. And if you are a yin yoga student and you want to practice with me, I do have regular zoom classes. Those are done in semesters, seasonal semesters. There will be a link in the show notes for you to see more about that. And if the current session is already running, when you notice it, Just make sure you go all the way to the top or all the way to the bottom of my page and join my email list.
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