Yoga. Trust. Embodiment.
How to Influence Your Emotions with Movement
“Life begins outside of your comfort zone!” is written in my notebook as a daily reminder. It’s easy to get stuck inside a bubble where everything is familiar and to leave this comfortable space I need trust. Trust in myself, trust in others and trust in the Universe. Also being open to experiments, change and adventures and believing that it will all turn out just fine. This is not always easy, there are better days than others.
Yoga is a great tool to increase trust in my own abilities. It helped me with grounding, being calm and becoming open to new movements. Firstly on a physical level, but then also in other aspects of my life. When I learn to do a new pose or get more flexible in a particular part of the body that was always stiff, then I begin to understand that I can change and that fills me with trust that changes in other parts of my life can happen. Yoga with a partner like in this video adds another dimension to it. What Simon and I are doing in this video might look acrobatic to some, but in fact it doesn’t require much physical ability. For my part I don’t need to be very strong or flexible. My front side gets stretched, but not to an extreme. He needs some strength in his legs and enough flexibility in his hamstrings to lift his legs 90 degrees, nothing superhuman. The challenge lies somewhere else – I have to trust him that he will hold me up. Only with this trust can I totally relax, and this relaxation prevents me from getting injured. If I were to tense my body in this posture, I could easily tear a muscle or even loose balance and fall down. That’s why you should never really practice this at the beginning without a third person, a so called ‘spotter’ who is there to catch you should you fall. Gradually you learn to trust the person you practice with and gradually you can take this trust outside of yoga into your life. Of course there is always the risk of getting hurt, in your practice and in life. But without some daring, you will miss out on all those wonderful moments that you can experience when you trust yourself and others. In yoga, you can practice this in a safe space with the help of others, step by step.
This particular flying pose that we are doing in this video also has another effect. As I already mentioned, I get a good stretch on my font side, particularly in the chest area, with my ribcage expanding and the intercostal muscles getting nicely stretched. It affects the anahata chakra (heart chakra), the seat of many of our emotions. The heart chakra is often related to some of the following.
- Love for oneself and others
- Empathy, relationships
- Compassion, empathy
- Forgiveness, acceptance
When the heart chakra is open, you may feel being deeply connected, the harmonious exchange of energy with all that is around you, and the appreciation of beauty. However, when there is a so called energy ‘blockage’ in the heart chakra, you may experience difficulties in relating to others (empathy), such as excessive jealousy, co-dependency, or being closed down and withdrawn.
If we experience such a blockage, it will inevitably manifest itself physically, such as a hunched back, shoulders drawn forward, and perhaps tension in all the muscles associated with that part of the body. So entering any pose (it doesn’t have to be in the air of course) that opens that area can have a strong emotional response and therefore should be done carefully and mindfully. If you feel that you are going through a difficult period, you should thus work on that very gently and compassionately. But any chest or heart opener pose can have a very refreshing and energising effect on you. While we were shooting this video, I was also working on an art photo project that included this pose, so we kept repeating it over and over again for two days and during this time I was more concerned with light, angle, technical issues rather than the yoga itself. But if you pay attention or not to your body any posture has still an effect on you. So I had these sudden bursts of mega energy and started to sing and run in circles and had to go for a long run in the evening and the next morning to channel all this excess energy and incredible happiness! This has to do with the exciting discovery that our body can send signals to our brain and affect our emotional wellbeing in a kind of reverse process that we are perhaps not so aware of. For example, if I sit out of habit hunched, with arms crossed and closed posture, it may lead me to feel increasingly down, insecure, or unconfident because my body sends signals to the part in my brain that is responsible for emotions. But this follows that I can also influence my emotions by means of changing my body posture. If I was having a moment of low self-esteem, I could start doing some gentle exercises, movements and postures that would help to open up the right parts of the body. Tension in the muscles and fascia might loosen, and a more positive emotional state would hopefully follow. This is perhaps one of the main behavioural differences between us and other mammals. We instinctively react physically to situations like other animals do, but we can decide (consciously or not) to change our body language in order to influence our emotions. I don’t have to squeeze my tail between my legs every time I feel scared.
There has been quite compelling research that demonstrates how our bodies can affect our behaviour, particularly with how positive or negative perceptions can be generated by getting test subjects to assume different postures. Our bodies are fundamentally interconnected on physical, mental and emotional levels and the communication between them all runs both ways – what has become known as ‘embodiment’.
If you like to read more about how postures and movements can influence how you feel and think I recommend this really interesting article on some of these experiments at the link below.