Crying Yoga by Anna Ingham

We all know how good it feels to have a good cry and dump all that unwanted tension, so why don’t we do it more often? Usually we hold our emotions in for as long as possible until the dam breaks and we find ourselves sobbing on a stranger’s shoulder at a bus stop or hiding in the toilets at work. This process of forcing ourselves not to cry is, in itself, stressful and exhausting.

Why not save yourself the trouble and release the valve a bit sooner?
In my experience, crying is the BEST way of releasing emotional tension, whether it be caused by a painful situation in our lives, physical pain or illness, working too hard, lack of sleep, nasty people winding us up, grief, PMT or any of the many other things that we encounter in our lives that make us feel like shit.
What does a baby or a young child do when they are tired, uncomfortable, in pain or simply frustrated and bored? Generally they throw a massive fit and sob their hearts out at the top of their lungs. This is because all their emotional safety valves are well-oiled and ready for action at a moment’s notice. They can be screaming like the word is ending one minute then be giggling the next. They use crying to instantly rid themselves of their immediate emotional tension then quickly move on. We have this capacity too but have learned to restrain it because society tends to frown on adults who have a screaming fit in the super market because their favourite chocolate has sold out.
But sometimes I feel that we have learned our lessons of self control too well and some of us find we can no longer cry even if we want to. Many of us have been taught to believe that crying is a weakness and is something to be ashamed or that it is annoying or that you are only crying ‘to get attention’. Whatever social conditioning around crying you have been subjected to, you can dump it. The only thing you need to believe about crying is that it is a normal, natural, healthy, very effective and completely safe way of releasing any kind of tension.
And it’s free!
So how can we tap into the natural release of crying and use it to our advantage? Well, firstly it is essential to have some time to yourself. It is hard to really let yourself go if you have an audience. Peace, quiet and solitude are the perfect conditions to cry like a baby. But you may be thinking ‘Huh, that’s easy for her to say, I never get any peace and quiet in my life!’ If this is the case then this may be a little more difficult for you but you can still have a go.
Yesterday I was walking down the corridor to our kitchen and I became aware that my shoulders were a bit tight, possibly due to not sleeping very well the night before. I thought ‘Ay up lass, bit of tension collecting here. I had better get rid of it.’ So I had a little blat in the kitchen as I was cooking the dinner. It didn’t really slow me down much and the cat was undisturbed so all was well. If you have a regular yoga practice then this will be particularly useful as you will most likely be on your own and be very aware of how your body is feeling and how relaxed (or not) you are. Unfortunately there are no guaranteed techniques or methods you can use to cry at will when you want to release something. Using my yoga to
allow myself to open up and cry is not something I have been taught but something I have discovered on my own. I have been doing yoga for about 18 years now and have discovered quite a lot of unteachable things. They are unteachable because the internal shifts that allow you to experience these things are too subtle to be described in words. I think the best I can do here is to try to describe to you what it is like for me when I do crying yoga and hope that some of it makes sense. But there are a few definite things that will help. Crying yoga needs to be as spontaneous and ‘in the moment’ as possible. If your yoga practice is regimented this will not work. Also, you need to NOT be thinking about what posture to do next or trying to remember exactly where your feet go. Crying is utterly natural so the yoga that draws it out should be natural too, not forced or prescribed.
I usually begin by waiting. I stand or sit and let things settle. I become aware of how my body feels, how my breathing feels and see what is rolling around in my head. I wait. I sink down and see what is there and I allow what is there to move me. Any physical yoga that I do is arrived at by ‘being moved’ rather than me deciding to move. I allow the yoga to do itself.
The movements I end up doing may involve no postures at all. The best release is the one that comes when you simply allow it, but sometimes I need to go to where the tension is hiding and unwind it. For me this place is nearly always deep in the center of my chest. I allow my awareness to settle there and breathe into this space. Sometimes I will touch this area with my hands. I send my awareness deeper in and the sensation gets stronger, like I have a big thorn stuck in my chest. My breathing changes and I start to gasp. The pain intensifies. The thorn starts to move and I am on the floor. I allow myself to feel all the pain and dive into the whirlpool of all that it is. I do not analyze the pain or wonder why it is there. I am simply with it. The more completely I give myself over to it the quicker it will shift and the release will be more complete. I trust this and do not struggle against the current. It hurts but I am not afraid. I know it is taking me to a much more peaceful place. The crying comes with sound and gasping. It lasts for as long as it needs to. I let it run its course.
When it stops, I look up, speechless. Everything feels different. The silence inside is beautiful and vast. The boundary of my skin seems insubstantial now. I breathe and it feels amazing, like this is my first breath. All senses heightened. Whoever I was before has now gone but
I feel no loss. I feel absolutely clear and connected to everything. The experience of being alive is wonderful. I breathe and the air delights me.
This is an extreme example. It is not always this way, but if you can really get into this it can be very powerful. If it is a powerful experience for you, just don’t be scared of it. It can feel very extreme sometimes and you wonder if you are going to be ok, but don’t worry this is a natural process and however weird it feels it is only your own pain unwinding itself. I cried for 3 days solid once and I was ok!
Good luck everyone! I hope you all have an amazing time trying this!
Anna Ingham lives and works at the Parkdale Yoga Centre and has been teaching Yoga (retreats and weekly classes) there for fifteen years. She is also the author of There Are No Rules for Love. For more about Anna’s work see


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