Observing emotion and sitting with how we feel takes practice and patience, especially when we’re feeling really strong emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, and/or disgust. Water is the element that represents emotion and the unconscious mind. In contrast to ether, the idea of space and consciousness (featured in last week’s post), water’s connection to emotion is made material and tangible through the relationship to the body.
Emotion is an automatic reaction the body has to certain stimuli, feelings arise once the brain becomes aware and conscious of the physical changes. We use the words emotion and feeling interchangeably, however, on a physiological level we receive the emotion first as a direct unconscious message in our body. The emotion is then delivered to the brain where we consciously sift through and assess how we feel.
Emotion as a Message
All emotions are a signal that your body is trying to tell you something and express a truth you may have missed. The message will keep being sent, growing bigger and stronger, until it’s received.
– Clara Roberts-Oss
When we don’t acknowledge how we feel or learn to move with and manage our emotions, we run the risk of creating toxic environments within ourselves and for those around us. Our emotions are not who we are, they’re characters we experience for a period of time. f we don’t learn how to express our emotions, we may experience them for much longer–creating a lasting feeling like despair or depression.
Body Map of Emotion
What we repress is expressed in other forms; whenever we suppress how we feel we throw off the energetic balance in our body. It disturbs our Qi (energy) and the harmony of our internal organs, which can cause illness and/or disease and disrupt our emotional state. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, each emotion is intrinsically linked to a specific place and organ in the body. When we block emotion it affects the overall health of the body and mind and the place in the body where the emotion resides
GRIEF / DEPRESSION / SADNESS
Grief lives in the lungs and is associated with the large intestine. Grief also affects the heart and may last a long time as we process letting go. It has a profound effect on our energy and disrupts the flow of energy in our body. When we make space to grieve and sit with our sadness, we give ourselves permission to let go and give in to our sorrow. When we hold onto our grief and our loss, we run the risk of entering a state of depression where we may get stuck and block the flow of energy in our body. This may be expressed in the body through a difficulty releasing bowels, lung function, and oxygen circulation.
Fear lives in the kidneys and the bladder, which are associated with the element water. Fear is a normal emotion to experience but when ignored or avoided it can have devastating effects on our body and mind. Fear of the unknown or of change and a refusal to accept and adapt to life evolving around us may be expressed with issues in the kidneys.
WORRY / ANXIETY / OVERTHINKING
Worry is connected to the spleen, stomach, pancreas and is represented through the element earth. Insecurity and anxiety affects our digestion, through understanding and accepting a situation in our lives. This is expressed as a lack of trust in the universe and having faith that everything will work out. This drains our body and literally affects our digestion as the angst sits like a ball of energy in our belly. When we have a lack of faith, this creates a sense of heaviness, overwork, and stubbornness.
ANGER / FRUSTRATION / RAGE
Anger lives in the liver and gallbladder. Frustration and fury block us from moving through how we feel and letting go of what no longer serves. Repressed anger may show up as irritation or resentment, and show up with headaches, dizziness, and disrupt liver/gallbladder health.
JOY / HAPPINESS / LOVE
Joy lives in our hearts. When we nourish ourselves and do things that bring us joy we feed our heart center and are better able to process our experiences. When we lack joy we may feel stuck, sad, and have difficulty connecting to others. Obsessive joy is also dangerous and may point at a scatteredness and undirected energy causing mental disorders. Agitation and insomnia could be the results from mania or obsessive joy.
The Brain / Body Relationship
Our brains are just as disturbed as our bodies by unresloved and repressed emotions, especially the limbic system of the brain. Our emotions trigger and activate specific centres in the brain, sending signals to the body as the brain processes the information. Emotions are energies in motion and as we become better at sitting with the sensations that arise, we create space to heal and adjust to the shift in energy.
The limbic system (deals with emotion and memory), autonomic nervous system (regulates blood pressure and breath-rate), and reticular activating system (regulates behaviour) interact in the physiological processing of emotion. The limbic system categorizes our emotional experience as either good or bad, producing and regulating dopamine and serotonin levels, aka the ‘feel good’ hormones. The autonomic nervous system assists in arousal in response to emotional cues. The reticular activating system arouses the cortex and allows for emotion to be interpreted more effectively by the brain. A disruption to the conversation between your body/brain, such as repressing or avoiding how we feel, affects the delicate systems that keep your energies balanced and your mental and physical body’s healthy.
Grounding to Receive Emotion
Acceptance is key to move through emotion, as is forgiveness. Letting yourself feel all that there is to feel starts with acceptance of where you are and all the emotions that arise. Without acceptance there can be no progress or movement toward healing. Forgiveness is the second step. Without forgiveness we may become stuck in patterns that do not serve when we can’t forgive ourselves and let go of our actions of the past. This is where emotions such as guilt and shame are layered over the emotions we initially felt. We want to address what arises instead of adding layers of emotion onto the pile of emotions that we already don’t know how to deal with.
Issues and conflict arise when we feel like we have to do something or respond immediately to our frustration. fury, or fear. There are some cases when a prompt response is required, but most of the time if we took a little space to let the emotion mellow and our bodies to come down from the intensity, we would be much more capable of making an informed decision on how to proceed. Meditation, reflection, journalling, breath-work; all are practices that create space to calm the body and quiet the mind. Such practices are key to grounding and sitting with emotion so we might move through how we feel. Yoga, hiking, cycling, dancing, swimming, boxing; rock climbing; physical activity is a great way to release the accumulated emotional, physical, and mental tensions that amass when we feel intense emotions. Purging the body of excess energy through fitness and sport has a grounding effect and also makes the mind more clear and capable of finding a resolution.
NEW CLASSES THIS WEEK:
A practice to quiet the mind and ground the body, this vinyasa class will have you start seated to focus breathing into your belly and heart. Ideal for pregnant yogis or anyone seeking a slower-paced vinyasa class.
Nidra translates as “sleep” in Sanskrit. Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation to bring your body and mind into deep relaxation. Recommended for everyone and can be helpful for those working with stress, anxiety, exhaustion and burn out.
Balance energy with Ayurvedic medicine, the sister science of yoga
Yoga & meditation to embrace the Water Element