Women often talk about a “good cry” and how much better they feel after having one. Having a good cry enables them to feel their emotions—and somehow that’s very liberating. I actually haven’t had that experience. My cries are usually bad, and I feel swollen and sore and stupid after I’ve had one.
For me, yoga provides what a good cry offers other women. And here’s my explanation of how it works. There’s a theory in psychology called cognitive dissonance, and basically it says that the discomfort of acting in a way that conflicts with your attitudes will drive you to bring your actions and attitudes into alignment. And often enough, you will change your attitudes to bring it into accord with your actions.
In yoga, many asanas have an engrained emotional or attitudinal component. Forward bends foster introversion. Backbends foster courage. Half-moon is ecstatic. And so forth.
Even if you think of yourself as kind of cowardly, say, you experience courage as you do a half-wheel, because you can’t really do a half-wheel and feel cowardly at the same time.
So when you participate in a well-designed, thorough yoga practice, you cycle through a rich gamut of emotion-laden activity. And you actually feel the emotions because you can’t carry out the activity without feeling them.
It’s not precisely the same thing as a good cry. It’s better. Your nose doesn’t run, you don’t make revolting noises, and you don’t feel like you have to apologize to everyone afterward.