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Yoga and EmotionDonna Amrita Davidge
©Yoga People, LLC 2017
Energy in motion. E-motion. Energy in motion and yoga. In an excellent article on yoga in a recent Modern Maturity magazine, George Feuerstien, founder of the Yoga Research and Education Center in Santa Rosa, California and author of more than 30 books on yoga, laments that yoga has been watered down in its translation to the West. The author of the article starts the article pushing his way aggressively through traffic ... on his way to yoga class!! After class, the aggressive angry emotions he was acting on have been transformed to calm and surrender, reflected in his smile and gesture to the driver slipping in ahead of him in traffic on the way home. "My quarrel is with yoga teachers who never get beyond the physical. Why use one per cent if you can use a lot more?" comments George Feuerstein.
After seventeen years of involvement in kundalini yoga, and trying other yogas to enhance my practice and understanding, I have observed that in the last five years yoga has exploded into a fitness movement, people flocking to classes for their workout and to sweat, sometimes to injure themselves. Sweat and workout has always been a way to destress. But how does stress affect our emotions, and visa versa, and what aspects of yoga are these workout classes missing that could help people deal with their emotions and stress?? We are taught that 90% of illness is stress related. What can we as yoga teachers share with students to help prevent or heal these illnesses?
Eckhard Tolle, in his book The Power of Now, say emotion literally means disturbance (Latin emovere, to disturb). Our teacher Yogi Bhajan says yoga is to take the commotion of emotion and transform it to devotion, calm and inner peace. How can a yoga student learn these tools in a class that does not present stillness, meditation and mindfulness as part of the teachings?
Five years ago I was asked to teach yoga to an Alcoholics Anonymous group on a weekend retreat at Club Getaway in Connecticut. The unanimous experience of the participants was soaring of emotions and feeling of well-being emotionally which comes with DEEP BREATHING.
Last summer one of these women contacted me and came to my retreat for three and a half weeks. She had recently gotten out of the hospital for pneumonia. I like to look at illness from a holistic perspective, so went to Louise Hay's book to identify the emotional cause of this illness of the lungs, the breath. "Emotional wounds that are not allowed to heal" was her explanation. The affirmation: I freely take in Divine ideas that are filled with the BREATH and intelligence of LIFE.
Many changes occurred for her during her stay. She had a lot of nervous energy but at the same time was very weak upon arrival. She was unable to be in baby pose and had to gradually restore herself with breath, good food and healing massages. Emotional issues around her upcoming retirement and challenges with aging and ill parents surfaced and finally, though it took three weeks, the tears came up as well in one of her last classes. "My eyes are damp with the nectar of the Lord" is a line from one of the songs we play in kundalini yoga that I love and to me exemplifies the healing nature of tears. What a beautiful class and clearing that was.
When she left, she had a 20 minute routine of asana and pranayama to take with her and looked rested, radiant, years younger and happy. Negative emotions had lifted and she had become a joyous loving part of our life. She had learned to be still with that nervous energy and just breathe and to feel the sadness, hurt, the things she must accept and could not change. Yoga helped her, as it can help us all, to feel and deal with these disturbances,our emotions, which only our mind and mind training can transform from commotion to devotion, to awareness and nonattachment. As George Fueurstein says, perhaps we can get back to using yoga to remember the philosophical, spiritual and emotional aspects of our being and in so doing help heal ourselves and our planet to become a more peaceful, loving space for all in our fast-paced anxiety ridden often emotionally confusing world.
Thanks to Yoga Teacher Donna Amrita Davidge has been teaching Kundalini Yoga in NYC since 1985 and in a retreat setting since 1997 in northern Maine. Amrita also teaches Hatha, Astanga and Vinyasa. The retreat is open during the summer season from July 4th until October 10th. For more information, see http://www.sewallhouse.com .
Copyright by author Donna Amrita Davidge
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