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Making Space for Emotion Through Yoga

by | Nov 15, 2022 | Mental Health, Yoga

Our emotions are in a constant state of flux, but sometimes we don’t take the time to process them. Ever feel like you’re moving at high speed through life, running to keep up with the endless demand of information, social commitments, family, work, text messages, emails? Everything we look at seems to have an extra ad, a personalized distraction to pull our focus in a different direction.

Some stress is useful, helps us get out of bed or achieve personal goals. Daily levels of negative stress creates a constant state of movement. There is no time to be still, to let what we are feeling or thinking come into focus. 

Yoga has teachings about how to use movement, breath, and mental focus to make space for what is happening within our minds and emotions. The simple practice of slowing the momentum, taking an hour to pay attention to the body and the breath can help us shift gears to get out of the stress loop. 

But wait! There’s more!!

How the Philosophy of Yoga Helps Manage Emotions

The philosophy of yoga has tools to help us understand the nature of our emotions and how to manage those that inhibit living your best life.

In the tradition of Samkya (“that which sums up), the ancients developed a model to describe the nature of this life. Purusha is defined as the observer, the self, the one who is aware/knows. Prakriti is everything that can be observed – everything beyond that pure awareness.

To break it down further, Prakriti evolves from three, intertwined elements – the gunas. “The word guna literally means ‘strand’ or ‘fiber’ and implies that, like strands of a rope, the gunas are woven together to form the objective universe” (Sovic). These three manifestations of energy include tamas, rajas, and sattva.

Each guna has specific qualities (both positive and negative).

  • Tamas: steadiness, rest, heaviness, bound. Can be used to promote healing or recovery (like a vacation). Excessive tamas can manifest into feelings of depression, helplessness, or addiction. Tamasic entertainment is mindless and intoxicating.
  • Rajas: energy of passion, desire, pain. Can be used to make big changes, move away from stagnant situations. Excessive rajas can manifest into feelings of anger, lack of focus, or anxiety. Rajasic experiences connect to sensory experiences and pleasure. 
  • Sattva: allowing light and clear understanding. Satvic feelings include delight, joy, compassion, and satisfaction.

The teaching is that ALL three guna energies are present, working with and around each other to direct our actions. Understanding how certain energies arise and influence our emotions can be used to shift our efforts to move beyond debilitating emotions. 

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