Yoga for Mental Well-Being Series: Honouring Emotions

I came across this powerful quote the other day while reading Brené Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness: “Most of us were not taught how to recognize pain, name it, and be with it. Our families and culture believed that the vulnerability that it takes to acknowledge pain was weakness, so we were taught anger, rage, and denial instead. But what we know now is that when we deny our emotion, it owns us. When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain.”

Yoga for Mental Well-Being - Honouring our Emotions
Photography by: Laura Pedersen

These words have really been sitting with me and I find myself coming back and again and again to read them. Finding Yoga and deepening my practice I believe was the catalyst for me to move into my emotional body. For years I was told that I was too emotional, that I needed to learn to let things go. But, when I ever tried to do this, I wasn’t ever actually letting go but rather just hiding my feelings away. Denying the pain only caused it to fester. It held my heart back in protection and fear and created false beliefs that I didn’t deserve happiness or love, or that I didn’t want it anyway.

When I first stepped on to my mat just for me, things started to shift. What I mean by that is all the other times I came to my mat, it was to follow along with the poses. Learning how to deconstruct and teach the poses and then to use the poses in service to my students. When I finally began my own personal practice outside of all this, I realized what I craved most was slowing down and becoming very still with just my breath.

Following my intuition through only a few poses and staying in them for a long time. One of the first times I practiced in this way, I was met with a flood of tears. It was as if all the ache and yearning of my spirit came to the surface and then finally let go. I discovered the importance of my own personal practice then and while it still took many years to become a consistence practice, I understood why I needed it. Why we all need it.

Coming back to the quote above, until we own our emotions, they will continue to own us. Rather than allowing them to be the feedback or indicators that they are, we let them create a giant shield around us, holding us back. It’s time to step into the light. While we can choose to linger in any emotion of our choice, we often forget that this choice includes joy and gratitude. This isn’t about stuffing or hiding away negative feelings, it’s about respecting that there is both light and darkness in everything and in every day. The sun rises, the sun sets.

Inside our Yoga practice we can choose poses that draw comfort (child’s pose), poses that open our hearts (camel pose) or poses that shift energy such as inversions (legs up the wall). We can choose to focus on our breath while practicing quieting our mind and letting go of the stories. We can practice with others or on our own, the most important thing is that we simply practice. That we step on to our mat and meet ourselves where we are.


Join me for my upcoming course: Yoga for Mental Well-Being. This is a 4-hr live virtual course on Saturday, January 30, 2021 10am – 2pm EST. There is also an online course, Yoga for Mental Well-Being: Creating a Daily Practice you can access now. Together, let’s take ownership of our mental health.