Why Yoga Makes Some People Cry

One of my teachers shared a story recently of a student that started crying uncontrollably during her class. This is surprisingly common, and while it often occurs during intense hip-openers or backbends, it can also happen in gentle or restorative postures as well.

So the question is: “Why does yoga make some people cry?”

I’m not a psychologist, but after years of teaching and even more years of practice, I’ve learned that the mind-body connection is so profound that it’s impossible to do anything physical and not affect your mental state; and conversely, your state-of-mind has a huge impact on your biochemistry.

To see and feel what I mean, try this simple experiment.

Stand up tall and raise your hands in the air with a smile on your face. Take a few deep breathes, and notice how you feel. Doesn’t your mood lift immediately? Ok, now let’s do the opposite. Slouch your shoulders, frown, and shuffle your feet as you walk. After a few steps, can’t you feel your mood drop noticeably?

Since yoga asana classes establish integrity in the spine, release blocked energetic centers, and free up your stiff connective tissues, it’s natural that these physical shifts lead to emotional shifts too.

Some teachers will proclaim that financial drama gets stored in your hips or that parental issues are stored in your shoulders; and while those are interesting theories, I’ve never seen any reason to believe that we can geo-target emotional “hot spots” through specific stretches. Instead, we take a whole body, holistic approach, and see what shifts arise.

Your emotional life and your physical body are unique to you, and if you’re like most people, you’ll find that intense yoga will most-likely stir up some intense emotions—and it might even make you cry.

First and foremost, you should know that it’s ok. In yoga classes, it’s a regular occurrence, and for the most part, it’s quite healthy. Secondly, it’s not just yoga students. Sprinters and athletes of all kinds regularly break down, puking and crying after competitions, for example. Since yoga is particularly challenging for your nervous system, it’s natural that emotional shifts will occur at a higher rate than with other activities.

When feelings arise during practice, your job is to try to maintain equanimity, breathe, and allow the energy to flow through you. If your teacher panics at the sight of your tears, just let her know that you’re not injured, you’re just having an intense class. Keep practicing, keep breathing, and I can almost guarantee you’ll leave class feeling great.

Stay bendy,