The Yoga of Crying

Posted on in On Our Radar by Zachary Feder

Internal Asanas to Support
Healing and Grieving


Crying? We don’t cry here. Crying is taboo. Forbidden. Verboten. Because if we cry then we’re weak, and if we’re weak then we’re likely to die, and if we’re likely to die then no one will ever want to be associated with us because even being in proximity to us will threaten their survival too. So if we cry we will be ostracized, isolated, and left for dead. So we don’t cry.

Instead we repress, anesthetize, and push down the emotions like an ostrich with its head in the sand, hoping that because we ignore the pain within us, it will never have any effect over us.

Do not be fooled. Your unprocessed emotions do not vanish when you ignore them. On the contrary, they continue to act out in spite of you in an ongoing attempt to heal the wounded part of you. Ignore your emotions and you have only two options. Either to continue repressing them in increasingly damaging ways with alcohol, drugs, food, work, or sex, or by simply allowing them to be triggered like a volcano erupting again and again when you least expect it. Either way, make no mistake—your emotions are stronger than you. While they can occasionally be stifled, they can never be silenced.

Exercising Emotion

If the gym of the body is the gym, then the gym of the heart is attention, the gym of the mind is meditation, and the gym of the emotion is catharsis. As the word itself suggests, “e-motions” need to move and require your active engagement to do so. Anger, depression, fear all thrive when you are stationary, still, stuck, and unable (or unwilling) to shift.

The Yoga of Crying is a practice that we have long forgotten. It is an upgraded way of using the body’s natural process of catharsis to move and cleanse internal wounds that would other wise remain in the body to fester indefinitely. The Yoga of Crying has three parts:

  1. Let Go Completely
    When most of us truly cry—when we really give ourselves over to the tears—we are letting go. We are surrendering completely. We are in freefall. The Yoga of Crying begins at the very end, with Shavasana—a complete release and absolute surrender into the pain within. Doing this will usually require that you are in a safe, private place and that you reframe the poster of crying to be free from guilt, shame, or any other personal or culturally conditioned ideas of what it is to engage in a perfectly natural, hardwired process of healing.
  2. Be a Grief-Seeking Missile
    Step two is what makes conscious crying what it is, and requires you to internally scan, detect, and approach your pain wherever you find it inside your body. This is somewhat counterintuitive to our nervous system because instead of moving away from the pain, we are actively moving toward it. In this way we are no longer waiting for the right moment to heal, no longer simply waiting (or hoping) to spontaneously find that place within that needs to be cleansed; we are taking our healing into our own hands and actively seeking it out.
    In this step you’re being a “grief-seeking missile,” using your awareness to target long-forgotten (or completely hidden) areas where your unprocessed pain still lies, waiting to be addressed. As your skill increases, you will find yourself entering areas that may have been energetically stored within your body for years, even decades.
  3. Be Emotionally Ambidextrous
    When you first attempt to engage in the Yoga of Crying—to simultaneously let go into the process of crying while also consciously directing it—you will likely find that you are unable to. It will often feel as if you’re attempting an awkward contortion, like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time. It won’t be easy at first, and with good reason. These actions are completely at odds with one another. It’s a bit like trying to do nothing while also trying to do something.
    As a result, you will likely find yourself initially going back and forth between letting go in order to maintain the momentum of crying, and consciously directing as you refocus your attention onto different layers and degrees of your internal pain. Despite the challenge, however, rest assured that with practice you will quickly develop the ability to be “emotionally ambidextrous.” This will allow you to surrender into your pain fully while simultaneously directing your will into deeper and deeper areas of pain with skill and efficiency. Like an emotional gym and hydrotherapy session rolled into one, the result will make you feel unburdened and lighter.

Jumpstarting the Motor

People have often asked me: “I understand what to do when I’ve be gun, but I can’t just sit down and push the cry button. How do I start?” The answer is simple: find a short clip of music or film that touches you deeply. For example, we all know music that can reach our hearts. We all know scenes in movies that choke us up. For some it may be a scene of unrequited love or a hero’s moment of sacrifice for the greater good. If you have shed a tear as a result of great drama or music, then you have your way in. Use these tools to help you pry open the door and jump start your tears. When you notice the process taking on a momentum of its own, simply press pause and take over the reins yourself.

How Deep Does the Rabbit Hole Go?

In the beginning you may find that you cry for yourself, for the struggles that you have undergone in your life, in childhood and beyond. Going deeper, you may find that you begin to cry for your family and for all the ways that those relationships may have been painful and challenging. Going deeper still, you may begin to cry as a result of your existential suffering, not simply for having been born, but for the pain of having manifested into form.

The Yoga of Crying and Death

The origin of this process comes from the feelings that began bubbling up in me a few years before my father’s passing. He had been diagnosed with cancer, and despite our attempts to delay the illness it was obvious he would not recover. As the end of his life began to loom large, I found myself wondering what more I could do to prepare.

It was then that my body began to whisper, “You do not know how to cry, and you must learn. Grief is approaching, and you are running from it. But if you think you can escape, you are wrong. Turn and face it now. Meet it head-on. Become conscious of it. Transform it.”

When my father did die I was grateful for having spent the previous year practicing the Yoga of Crying. I had already done so much active, conscious processing of practically every aspect of our relationship that I was able to be radically more present to him, and in the moments leading up to his death. When the time came I wasn’t simply overwhelmed with my own feelings, or wrestling with events beyond my control. I was able to experience them fully while remaining grounded and calm in the midst of the grief.

As a result, something else became apparent to me. On the night of his passing, around the exact time that he was leaving his body, I felt as if something had been wrenched from within me. If you have lost some one close, you may know this feeling. It is as if we not only hold a place for our loved ones within our hearts and minds but also in our bodies. When they die it is as if this space, this part of them that has been some how interwoven with our own selves, is suddenly and brutally ripped out of us, leaving a gaping hole mouthing a silent, agonizing lament.

Had I not spent so much time practicing, my father’s passing would have hit me like a tidal wave. The inexperienced, fragile boat of myself would have likely been thrown off course, perhaps even capsizing. In stead, I was able to ride the storm of this brutal, sacred moment with clarity and vulnerability. I was able to be there fully without shutting down and disassociating. This made the experience of my father’s death one of the most treasured and precious of my life.

Zachary Feder is a writer and consultant supporting people in illuminating and resolving the unconscious, hard-to-find roots that block health, well-being, and happiness.

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