We know that yoga asanas are intended to have particular effects on the physical body. Muscles, ligaments and tendons are all stretched and strengthened by individual asanas and sequences of yoga poses. Circulation is improved; individual organs and the body’s systems are nourished by yoga. This partly accounts for the general feeling of well being we experience after a good yoga class or session. As particular yoga asanas can target different areas of the body, it may be no surprise that they can also impact us on an emotional level.
The theory of body memory is based on the idea that the body itself, not just the mind, can store memories of life events, usually repressed memories, which means they are sometimes based on traumatic or particularly intense circumstances. As yoga works our bodies on deep levels, it has the potential to release or activate body memory. Though this can be unsettling, it also has the chance to be therapeutic. Practicing yoga poses that are associated with body memory may be one way to work through the emotions associated with these events.
As different bodies have different physical abilities and issues with particular asanas, it would seem natural that we might have different emotional responses to certain poses. While most people feel uplifted by backbends, they may make some people anxious or uneasy. You may find forward bends calming and comforting most of the time, but, on a particular day, they may feel depressing. Most regular yogis have heard stories of someone crying as an emotional release during yoga class. This is not to say you should expect this to happen, but it can happen to some people, some of the time.
Yoga as Therapy
By practicing a full range of asanas, we can balance our emotional levels. If there is a pose that unsettles us, there is another pose that will bring us back to a centered state of well being. If we believe in the value of yoga as therapy, as we work through emotions with yoga, the poses that used to bring discomfort become easier for us. With time we find a state of ease. With experience, we learn which asanas can help us prepare for or deal with particular situations or states of mind.
Most yoga practitioners believe in the power of the mind-body connection. The health of the mind can affect the body and vice versa. Yoga is based on the union of the body and mind; it can help us use one to heal the other.