There I was, lying in Savasana, the room dark and silent except for the ambient sounds of Aphex Twin...and me gulping back sobs as tears mixed with the sweat on my face. I'd just spent almost 90 minutes doing a Vinyasa flow, feeling strong as I shifted into arm balances, held my two-minute plank and one-minute wheel, and flipped into handstand against the wall. But once I stopped moving, the urge to cry overtook me and tears started their own strong flow.
I'm not one who cries easily, and certainly not in public. I might let a tear or two out, but unless I'm alone or with someone I fully trust, I tend to move on quickly—my to-do list is too crammed to cry. So I had no idea what was going on. Rather than relaxing peacefully, my mind raced:
Not only am I crying, but I'm crying in Savasana, when you are supposed to be quiet, so everyone can hear me. My mascara is running (vanity, I know). Everyone for sure will know I was the crier. What will they think? Will anyone say anything? What is going on?
When class was over, no other students said anything, but my instructor, whom I was friends with, eventually came over. She told me she was honored that I felt comfortable to cry in her class. "Comfortable" was definitely not how I would describe the moment, but I didn't tell her that.
In the five years I've been practicing yoga, this has been my only all-out sob session. I thought I was weird, but turns out, it's actually fairly common to get the feels on your mat.
Clinical psychologist and registered yoga teacher Melody Moore, Ph.D., says that not only have students cried in her classes, but she has cried during yoga herself, both in classes or during her practice at home. "The body remembers everything and holds unprocessed tension," she says. "When we move our bodies and breathe, it gives us an opportunity to work out that tension. As it releases, so too does the emotional story or baggage."
Yoga is also a time to get out of our heads and "drop down into our bodies," says licensed psychotherapist Mariana Caplan, Ph.D., author of Yoga and Psyche (available February 2018). "The body contains the memory of the whole life we have lived," so many emotions—sadness, fear, anger, arousal—can pop up in class when you're not as focused on your day-to-day demands, she explains.