We hold a lot of emotions in our belly. Maybe you’ve had the sensation of butterflies in
your tummy? Or, been sick with worry? In this post, we’re going to explore what emotions might reside in our bellies. You will notice as you work through this exercise in awareness that all your emotions have a place they like to live in your body. This awareness if very helpful in a yoga practice, as our yoga practice is often where we work out the physical manifestations of our emotions. Even as we work out these emotions on the mat, we are not always aware that we are doing it. This is where meditation comes into play, giving us the stillness we require to examine where these emotions are. We can then bring this awareness onto our mat and knowingly connect body-asana-emotion.
Connecting the emotions and the belly practice:
Sit or lie comfortably, in a position that requires very little effort. I am going to list several emotions below. Read the emotion, close your eyes and remember a time when you felt that emotion. Make the memory vivid, almost as if you were reliving the moment. Feel that emotion as fully as possible and see if you can trace the physical sensations that arise from experiencing the emotion. Notice where the physical representation of each emotion resides in your body. Pay special attention to those emotions that reside in your belly, we will revisit these emotions shortly.
Now, take a few deep breaths before moving on…
Why do we want to explore the emotions held in the belly?
As you worked through the practice above, you may have noticed that emotions influences the state of the belly; the state of the belly influences the emotions. It can be hard to separate them; it can be counterproductive to separate them. As your emotional state improves from the awareness you have developed in your meditation, you will notice a physical improvement in your belly health; and vice verse. That is not to say that all dysfunction in your belly is linked to your emotions, that is definitely not true. What is true is that by working with the emotions you store in your belly, you can positively influence what is happening there, lessening unnecessary stress that will better allow you to deal with physical ailments, if you have them.
What do you do with this newfound knowledge of the emotions you hold in your belly?
Meditation – Sit comfortably. You may even wish to place your hands on your belly to better connect with this area. Notice when those belly-living emotions arise. Notice how your belly feels when they arise, before they arise, when they are gone. This is an information-gathering meditation. The more awareness you can develop without distraction, the easier it will be to identify triggers in the moment and the easier it will be to let go of the emotions that arise from those triggers.
Asana – When you are feeling an emotion that resides in the belly, explore postures that emphasize movement in the belly to see what sort of postures would be most helpful to you in processing those emotions. Perhaps the postures for you will be twists, or belly-down postures like cobra. Maybe they will be inversions like bridge pose. Or core-strengtheners like plank pose. Maybe a general belly flexibility or strengthening practice. Note that different emotions may respond differently to different postures.
Pranayama – In yoga, pranayama connects everything. An inward turning pranayama (like Dirgha or Nadi Shodhana) may help you connect with your belly and your emotions in a deeper way. An active, energy-building practice (like Bhastrika) may help you gain the courage you need to dive deeper, to feel deeper into your body and your emotions. Your pranayama practice can also be a great way to link your Asana and Meditation practices when working with a particular emotion.
Whatever approach you take to using your yoga to connect with and process the emotions in your belly, remember that even when it’s uncomfortable it is your practice, not anyone else’s. This means that there is no right or wrong. There is just you, working to make your body, mind and heart a better place. This is a courageous practice.
If you are interested in exploring your emotions more, Yoga Nidra Deep Relaxation offers a great opportunity to do just that and Richard Miller’s awesome book and CD will help you dive deep into your consciousness to find integration. Highly recommended!