I was laying on my yoga mat with eyes closed, still sweating, arms and legs splayed out, supported by the earth beneath me. My favorite yoga teacher (who I adore for his non-conventional music choices that are a refreshing and welcome change from the usual ambient and atmospheric background music, with playlists comprised of 80s pop hits you can’t help but sing along to or non-stop Beyonce so you channel your inner fierce goddess) played a song during our final relaxation that hit me right in the feels.
The lyrics called out. It was the voice of an inspirational young boy saying, “You’re way more than you might think you are. You’re more than your problems and you’re more than your mistakes. Somewhere inside, you’re a hero.”
Tears started streaming down my face, mixing with the sweat. I was a hot mess. Why was this happening?
Why was I silently crying to myself in a room full of strangers?
What is Savasana?
Savasana (or shavasana), is the sanskrit word for corpse pose. Or, as I like to call it, “look dead, feel alive.”
It got its name “corpse pose” due to the fact that, after you’ve stretched, twisted, bent, folded, and flowed your body through various asanas (sanskrit for poses) over the last hour or so during your yoga practice, you end up, well, looking like a corpse in a final relaxation pose — on your back, eyes closed, limbs stretched out, motionless, still, safe.
In this pose you only physically resemble a corpse. Mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, however, you’re still very much alive, and sometimes this brings life to feelings you’ve been been trying to suppress, consciously or not.
Enter: crying during savasana.
What Emotions Do You Feel During Savasana?
Crying during savasana is known as an “emotional release”. Let’s talk about each type of release you may have during savasana. Enter: enlightenment.
Breath and Sighs During Yoga
Sighs of relief are another sort of emotional release during yoga. Like when you readily exhale after a difficult asana, as if to say, “Yes! That was tough, but I did it!” Or like when a yoga teacher tells the class to let out an audible exhale after a long string of asanas to release tension and cool the body.
Once a teacher instructed us to “sigh like an angsty teen” when we met in downdog after a particularly challenging vinyasa flow.
It seemed silly, but it felt really cathartic, familiar even. It was a callback to a former self in a way. However, it was deeper than the sheer relief that my angsty teenage years were behind me. It was the fact that every person in that room was briefly reliving and letting go of that same experience together. It was a refreshing reminder of how much we can grow.
Laughing During Yoga
Of course, it was hard not to chuckle after we heard a chorus of over-dramatic, exasperated sighs echo around the room.
Laughter is another emotional release during yoga.
When a class laughs together, there’s a feeling of connectedness. Some of my favorite instructors tell funny stories or crack jokes during difficult or long-held asanas. After all, humor is a great distraction, especially when your muscles are shaking as you hold your contorted body in a bind you’re not entirely sure how you managed to get into in the first place.
Just Straight Tears During Yoga
Sighs of relief, airy laughter, that’s to be expected during yoga. Both are related to the breath, so it makes sense. But crying? I had never cried during yoga before.
But that same day my teacher ended practice with the voice of a little boy (Kid President, to be exact), reminding us that “If you want to be awesome, you got to treat people awesome. It’s about strength; I’m talking about compassion. Nothing’s stronger than that. It’s what changes things,” it resonated with me so much that I found myself crying.
Maybe it’s because this kid made everything seem so simple. Maybe it’s because, at the beginning of that practice, I had set my intention on compassion and was reminded that I hadn’t been treating myself so awesome.
Use that Raw Emotion During Yoga to Set Intentions
To say that yoga is more than just a physical practice would be an understatement. Although it is technically exercise, it provides awareness of your own body on a deeper level. It takes that awareness of your body and interconnects it to your mind and your heart. It relieves and manages stress, promotes relaxation, merges with meditation, and allows you to be part of a judgement-free community and environment.
Fundamentally, it’s a practice of mindfulness, being present. That, plus the massive shift and flow of energy, is why I always set an intention at the beginning of every practice. Sometimes it’s whatever new/full moon intention I had set that I want to reaffirm by breathing into it on the mat. Other times, it’s just a word. Strength. Serenity. Compassion. Tacos.
But regardless of what my intention is, it shouldn’t make me cry, right? So why do yogis find themselves crying during savasana?
Why Am I Crying During Savasana?
When I got home from that yoga class, I immediately went home and Googled “crying during savasana”, expecting to receive a dire diagnosis similar to when you search symptoms in WebMD and convince yourself you have an incredibly rare and totaly incurable form of cancer. Surely this means I’m having a mental breakdown.
But, to my surprise, I found that it’s actually quite common.
So what triggers the flow of tears? For me, sometimes it’s the simple act of laying like a corpse that makes me think of my own mortality. It put things in perspective; if I died tomorrow, could I say I truly lived my best life? Sure, I took time to do some yoga, to do something just for me, but am I doing enough for me outside of this practice? Am I doing enough for others? Am I doing too much for others and not myself? How can I find balance?
I had never thought about it before, but if we do yoga to release physical tension, why wouldn’t emotional tension be released too?
We don’t always take time out of our busy schedules to confront our negative emotions. So, after we’ve put in the time and effort to work through our physical tension, it’s no wonder that as soon as we’re given the opportunity during savasana to settle in, be grateful, and feel accomplished that we start working through what’s left: emotional tension.
What Other Yoga Poses May Help Me Cry?
It’s also common for the tears to come during hip openers, like pigeon pose. Not only are you releasing toxins in various muscles and joints when you surrender yourself to a certain asana, but since we’re opening up our sacral chakra (which is associated with our emotional body) during hip openers, it’s no surprise that our emotions are released too.
Maybe you’ve been doing a lot of energetic cleansing and releasing recently and now it’s manifesting itself on the mat.
Another catalyst could be if you’re experiencing touch-starvation because you’ve been lacking physical contact with others recently. After all, skin-to-skin contact releases happy chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. So when a yoga teacher, for example, rubs their palms together to create heat before using their hands to ease tension out of your shoulders during child’s pose (or really whenever they offer some hands-on help with an asana), their helping hand can cause a release of emotions.
When your mind is focused on breath and movement, you allow your mind the opportunity to subconsciously work through something you’ve been holding on to. Stress, frustration, worry, doubt, just a myriad of negative thoughts and energy.
Yoga offers a safe space to feel vulnerable. And having a shared connectedness among a room full of yogis as you offer your vulnerabilities is a beautiful thing in of of itself. So it’s no wonder that when a teacher says “let it all go” during your final relaxation or as you settle in to a hip opener that you really do let it all go. And there’s always beauty in letting go.
The Two Layers Of Every Emotional Release During Yoga
I’ve heard teachers compare a yoga class to an onion; there are layers to it. This metaphor works perfectly because with both, sometimes you end up crying. And I’ve found that there are two layers that are a part of every yogic emotional release.
First Layer: Compassion
Through my experiences at yoga, some practitioners cried at the beginning of practice, as the teacher reminded that “you’re here for you, you showed up and you are doing something for yourself.” So often we get wrapped up with helping others that a simple congratulation for taking time for yourself can make us a little weepy.
But whether you cry right at the beginning, while in a hip opener, or during savasana, your tears are a reminder that there’s a layer of compassion (either for yourself or for others) that you need to be more mindful of.
Second Layer: Cleansing
The second is that, from everyone I’ve talked to about this, we all felt better after. We weren’t ashamed. We felt relieved, enlightened, cleansed. Crying is never a sign of weakness. And for me, crying during savasana made me stronger because I was more in tune with my emotions.
So what else can you do to release negative emotions off the mat? Having a consistent meditation practice as well as using certain essential oils or crystals can also help with ridding yourself of any negativity.
What Should I Do Once I Start Crying during Yoga?
All you should do is just remember that it’s completely normal to get weepy during savasana, or any part of your practice for that matter.
View it as a surprise gift, one that reminds you that negativity can only serves us when we are mindful of it and can acknowledge the root cause. As that same inspirational little boy went on to say, “You have everything you need to change the world.”
Besides, you’ll probably be so sweaty that no one will be able to tell the difference between tears and perspiration anyway. After all, water is cleansing. So consider yourself cleansed, you beautiful emotional thing, you.