laughter and tears on the mat

There was a Yoga Journal a few years ago with this phrase as the big grabber headline on the cover. I used to laugh at it–there’s something so melodramatic about it. The article was about the upwelling of emotions that can happen while doing yoga–the idea being that sometimes you release a muscle or an area of your body and you tap into bottled up emotions, which come out during class, sometimes without a clear reason.

Well, this weekend I knew the reasons. I was both happy and sad, and I had my share of both laughter and tears on the mat.

I got to Philly for lunch with my coworkers on Friday. Being back with them was the best–being with family that you really and truly like. I had anticipated eating lunch and hanging out a little, but I was there for nearly FIVE hours. Another old coworker, Goldie (who occasionally comments here), joined us for lunch, so it was great to see her, too! After lunch, I flitted from office to office, talking to everyone. I had to literally drag myself away, because I wanted to see the woman I was staying with, her kids, and have time to get ready for the workshop, but I would have spent more time at the old office if I could have.

Here’s what the studio wrote about the workshop:

Jim Bernaert has been practicing yoga since 1984. In 1996 he began intensive study with John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga. Based on the Big Island of Hawaii where Jim teaches on-going classes, he also travels the US and internationally offering trainings, retreats and workshops. His teaching reflects his love for the students and for the practice of yoga. Students experience the clarity of his understanding, his precise instructions and his warm and generous heart.

John Friend, founder of Anusara Yoga, said about Jim, “He embodies integrity, devotion to the Highest, and a full-hearted dedication to serving his students. He is one of the most highly trained Anusara Yoga teachers in the country and has studied with me directly for hundreds of hours over the past 10 years.”

It could not have been more apt. Jimmy was a generous, warm soul whose direction and insight really got through to me. But oh, it was intense and difficult, especially since I hadn’t done yoga regularly since I moved to New York. First night was hip openers, and included some strange poses I’d never seen before–foot into the back of your armpit? I was overcome with the emotions of the day and actually cried during Savasana, but in a good way. I was bursting with happiness that night, though. So happy, I took a picture to capture it.


We were all complaining of soreness Saturday morning, but we had no idea what we were in for: The session was standing poses and arm balances, which left us all with our arms hanging limply at our sides and our hips aching further! We sat in a fog at a coffee shop between sessions, finishing up Saturday’s five hours total of yoga with forward bends–less intense but still a challenge.

The whole group went out to dinner Saturday night, where I tried to not complain too much about my soreness (Jimmy was at my table), but after dinner I downed some ibuprofen when a few of us hung out. The sitting around chatting was as important to me as any of the physical exercise; I am so thankful to have such awesome friends at the studio.

This morning’s class was inversions and backbends. I knew I was in for a difficult class, but I don’t know that I had any idea that I would be so tired. It was a lot of fun though–padmasana variations in shoulderstand, getting to watch Jimmy do some advanced headstand variations (which I sat and watched after I fell transitioning from one hand position to another). Here’s a shot of a good friend before this morning’s session. Those of us doing the entire workshop were leaving our stuff out, and I kind of love how lived-in and messy the studio got. (And also? It smelled like a locker room, aka “ass”; we kept steaming up the place.)

before the last class

I’m back in New York now, more tired than I have been in ages. I’m going to order some dinner and crawl into bed.

I did knit this weekend some. Here’s shots of me working on the way up and on the way down, side by side.

to New York knittin' on the dog

I know they’re small, but notice anything? Like how the toes are the practically the exact same size? No, I didn’t finish the first sock and start on the second. As is my standard, I got about three inches in and decided I needed to start over. I also decided that I much prefer the cute roundness of a short-row toe to using magic cast-on. I managed a short-row toe with no scrap yarn and no tools other than the needles I brought with me (I just unraveled the cast-on). I’m liking the yarn (red koigu, purchased for me by my mom at Stitches), but not entirely sure I’ve done the right thing with my plan for the lace pattern. I’m going to keep at it and see what happens.

18 Responses to laughter and tears on the mat

  1. stacey says:

    Ah, so good to read that someone else feels such an emotional release on the mat. It’s strange the first time but to release such intense emtional “stuff” – yoga practice is a wonderful facilitator. I try to “go” to Savasana any time in my mind when I need it – I like to sit in work meetings and run through Sun Salute in my head while doing the breaths – and no one is the wiser!! Yoga rocks – and I miss it more now as I can barely fit any in – knitting is my portable meditation for now! Namaste.

  2. Specs says:

    I used to feel the same way about ballet. I can remember crying after I left a particularly intense 3 hour ballet class at a summer program. I wasn’t sad, I was just so emotionally and physically exhausted but exhilerated and alive. One of my big plans for next year is to go back to ballet class — I know it won’t be the same, but damn I miss pouring myself into something like that.

  3. Jessica says:

    Wow! That sounds like such an awesome (but definitely tiring!) experience. I’ve always wanted to do something like that but I’ve never made myself do it. I’m glad you wrote about your experiences. I’ve fallen off the yoga wagon in the last couple of weeks because things have been so nuts but you’ve inspired me to get back to it tomorrow! Thanks! :)

  4. modjac says:

    I didn’t realize you did anusara–my friend Katherine is an anusara instructor and I am saving my money to get her to do a private session with me (have to get a bit back into the swing of yoga after a 5-year hiatus before a private session will be worth the $).

    Also, glad to see you looking so happy! And your hair is so cute!

  5. Ashley says:

    You know, I’ve been dodging going back to yoga since I moved to Michigan–mostly because I am absolutely terrified of what I’m going to have to release on the mat. I’m almost ready to be as happy as you look in that picture…

  6. nova says:

    your yoga experience sounds so rewarding, reading about it makes me want to pull out my mat…this very second! Thanks for sharing. And that happy photo of you is so great!

  7. Rachel says:

    Oh man, the only yoga poses I did this weekend were of the horizontal relaxed/reclining kind. You shame me.

    (That makes it sound like I sometimes do real yoga — I don’t. I’m just all-around lame.)

    I’m glad you had such a wonderful — if slightly painful — trip back to your old haunts. Isn’t it nice to be missed and then greeted so enthusiastically upon return? It’s one of the best parts about leaving a place.

  8. Leigh says:

    I know exactly what you are talking about… I’ve been to several weekend workshops with Manuso Manos. I laughed, cried, wondered if I would have enough energy to drive home…

  9. MeBeth says:

    I’ve had similar experiences with yoga. Whenever I do a lot of shoulder work I actually get really angry, which is frustrating because I’d prefer to enjoy practicing yoga rather than sitting there fuming about things. I’m not at all an angry person, or perhaps I just store all my anger in my right shoulder?

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