self care · yoga

Yoga & Sadness (but in an oddly non-specific way)

I have often come away from a yoga practice feeling calm. I have occasionally come away from a yoga practice feeling frustrated.  But last week was the first time I can recall coming away from my practice feeling sad. 

I was doing a lovely hip-focused yoga practice one evening and I felt a little shift in the muscles in my hip/lower back. It was a new sensation and I felt like I had ‘unlocked’ something important.

A person leans forward, facedown on a pink yoga mat with their arms extended.
A person leans forward, facedown on a pink yoga mat, their arms extended in front of them toward the camera. The feeling is one of surrender.

But then a wave of sadness hit me.

It wasn’t overwhelming and, strangely, it wasn’t even particularly upsetting. It was kind of like the feeling you get when you remember something that made you sad a long time ago. You aren’t sad now, per se, but you are sad for your past self and looking at them with empathy.

I paused the video and breathed through the feeling, letting it wash over me and trying not to do my usual ‘search for the origin of this feeling and possibly make it worse’ routine. The feeling subsided and I went on with the practice. 

Then another wave hit me. The same kind of ‘sadness about a distant event’ feeling.

I’ve had this sort of thing happen before when I wasn’t on the mat, of course. I’ve suddenly remembered something sad or frustrating or upsetting and then temporarily re-lived the feeling but usually something has prompted me to remember it. 

This time, the feeling wasn’t related to any specific past event, and there was no memory or baggage attached to it, it was just there.

A photo of a person with their arms wrapped around themselves, as seen through a rain covered window.
A photo of a person with shoulder length hair, their arms wrapped around themselves, as seen through a rain covered window. The colour scheme is muted, blues and greys and the overall impression is of a sad moment, someone trying to hold themselves together.

It didn’t make me cry, not even those sort of leaky tears that don’t involve sobbing. It was just a quiet sort of internal, ambient, soft sadness.

It kept happening as I moved through the video and it hung around like a chill after I was finished. 

If I hadn’t heard about this happening to people during yoga (and massage), I probably would have spent a lot of time poking around in my memories to figure out what I was sad about and I definitely would have spent a lot more time feeling down. 

Instead, I was able to identify what was going on, finish my yoga practice, get myself a cup of tea and do comforting and reassuring things for the rest of the evening before heading to bed a little early.

A person touches their tea which is in a white cup and saucer that is resting on a brown table.
A person touching their cup of tea with their fingertips as if testing the temperature. Their cup and saucer are white and are resting on a brown table.

And it hasn’t happened again since even though all of my practices last week were hip-focused. 

Have you had an emotion pop up for you out of nowhere when doing yoga or another movement practice? 

Was it just a vague emotion like mine or was it connected to something specific?

To be clear, I’m definitely not asking you to revisit trauma or to bare your soul and I certainly don’t need details (unless it would help you to share them for some reason) I’m just interested to know how this experience has played out for other people.

And, of course, I hope that if or when you find yourself awash in emotion on the mat, you can find the comfort you need in that moment. 

9 thoughts on “Yoga & Sadness (but in an oddly non-specific way)

  1. This has definitely happened to me – once pretty intensely when I started crying after a shoulder adjustment that opened up my chest. But other times much more softly. The body holds emotion for sure.

    1. Oh, that sounds really hard. Even when things are ultimately helpful, the rush of emotion can be so surprising.

      Thanks for reading my post and thanks for your comment. Please accept my apologies for taking so long to reply. I didn’t mean to be rude, I just kind of misplaced the time in between your comment and now.

  2. I’m glad you were able to find comfort afterwards.
    This happened to me years ago. It wasn’t unusual for exercise to bring out emotions but in this case the yoga practice culminated in drippy tears in savasana. The yoga teacher (who is still my favourite but who I didn’t know particularly well at the time) gave me a hug and was kind in a way a good yoga teacher can be (after asking if she could touch me). It was a moment I am often grateful for as it was cathartic in a time that was a bit sad for me.

    1. Thanks, Nicole.

      That sounds like a hard but lovely moment. Thank you for sharing it with me.

      (My apologies for the delay in responding. ADHD won this round – I honestly didn’t realize how much time had passed since I posted this.)

  3. Lovely. I find that kind of non-specific, gentle ambient sadness does arise during movement practices for me from time to time. And it almost feels luxurious–as if my heart is open and touched, but since it’s not attached to something particular, I can just enjoy the aliveness of feeling an emotion. Thanks for writing this piece.

    1. Thanks, Mina.

      I know exactly what you mean about the aliveness of feeling an emotion and I’m glad to know that I am not the only one this happens to.

      My apologies for not responding sooner. As I said to Nicole, above, my ADHD won this round – I didn’t realize how much time had passed since I wrote this.

  4. Thank you for sharing your moment of vulnerability- yes, the body stores all kinds of feelings, for years- it’s a gift to be able to sit with them, nurture oneself, but not get attached to the ‘story’…

    1. Thanks – for reading my post, for commenting, and for the understanding and empathy in your comment.

      I’m sorry for not replying sooner. I kind of misplaced the time between then and now, I wasn’t intending to be rude.

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