Yoga: Creating Space to Feel All the Feels

This past weekend, I wasn’t feeling so hot.

I was having a sad, lonely day and wanted to do anything to stop feeling this way.  I tried going to the gym for a workout and followed that with a yoga practice filled with handstands and fancy moves. I then proceeded to run errands all over town, called my family and cleaned my apartment.  I was keeping busy - all in an attempt to not feel what I was feeling.  Finally, the end of the day arrived. Everything I was running away from was sitting on my couch, at home waiting for me.

I sat down to eat my dinner and across the table, Loneliness piped up and said, “pass the salt, would you?”

Damn it. I thought my busy day shook this guy off.

I took to social media. Perhaps this could be a quick fix for the Lonely-s to scroll through the pages of Facebook looking at life happening outside my own. The whole day I had been debating whether or not I would post a small video of me practicing handstands. Why not? It would be a quick ego boost. People love handstand videos. They like them and leave comments like, “You’re so awesome!” followed by lots of heart emojis. I could show my friends and family how hard I’ve been working on my practice.

Instant validation!

But when the moment came to post it, I couldn’t pull the trigger. It wasn’t the whole truth about how I was feeling. I realized I was curating an image. I wanted people to think I was feeling awesome and happy. Yes, I have been practicing my inversions a lot. And yes, I felt accomplished and happy with them. But on that same Sunday, I was also feeling really crappy and tired. These feelings were even more intense the more I tried to ignore them.

This same weekend I came across strategically placed sidewalk postings. Poignant messages left by a group called #thesadcollective; Torontonians intent on raising awareness for mental imbalance and illness.

The messages read “We’re all in this together” and “It’s okay not to be okay.” I decided to post the pictures I took of these instead.

I was not feeling okay, and that was okay. I closed my laptop and crawled into bed.

I woke up to 40 likes for this photo. Woah.

Right away it helped me feel so much less alone. It pulled my head out of my own sadness. It reminded me how we really are in this together. Everyone has bad days. Hell, sometimes we have bad years.

I was finally able to settle into my own skin and allow two streams of emotion to coexist in my body; the happiness I feel from teaching yoga, the gratefulness I hold for family and friends, alongside the loneliness and sadness I feel at the end of an exhausting week.

When I teach, I find myself using the phrase, “create space” a lot. I use this phrase to the point where I feel a bit like a broken record. When we breathe deeply, we are actually creating more room in our lungs. When we stretch, more area arrives in between the joints. When we bend and breathe, by the end of the practice our bodies sometimes feel taller, and lighter.. We’ve “created space” inside our body and mind.

By breathing in more oxygen and breathing out worries and tension our insides start to de-clutter.

After this space has been made, the question remains, “What do we do with this space?”

My suggestion? Feel.

Feel all the feels.

There’s this misconception in our day to day lives that awesomeness and happiness must be achieved constantly, to the point where it can be a bit oppressive. Phrases like, “Wake up and be awesome” or “I just awesomed all over the place.”.

For me, I prefer, “Wake up and be human”

The space yoga creates in the body and mind can become a “neutral zone” that allows us to hold the duality of sad and happy, joyful and angry, fed up and grateful, heartbroken and hopeful. As humans, sure, we are awesome, but not necessarily in the “be happy all the time” sense. We are amazing because we are capable of feeling all of these things in tandem with one another.

We are big enough, strong enough, complex and multifaceted enough to feel all the feels.

To me, this is awesome.

To me, this is terrifying and awesome.

This “neutral zone” in yoga allows the body to shelter these feelings to “set up shop” while we decide how we will react to them. If I’m lonely - I can choose to call a friend. If I’m sad - sitting on the couch and letting tears squeeze out of the corners of my eyes might not be a bad idea. If I’m angry - I can write about it, talk about it, yell about it.

So I will practice yoga to create space. I will clean my body and mind with deep breaths and slow, sweeping movements. Then comes the practice of sitting. Sitting and feeling whatever needs to be felt that day. Even if it is something I really don’t want to feel.

In the midst of this, I will trust that I have enough room and wisdom inside of me to deal with whatever rises up.

It's okay not to be okay.

It's okay to be okay.

We are all in this together.

We are all human.

Create space and be. #thesadcollective

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Written By: Jelayna Da Silva
Jelayna is a well certified, passionate yoga teacher and writer living in downtown Toronto. Her love for yoga takes her across the GTA to teach at several studios and to multiple clients. With a background in Psychology and College Athletics she infuses her classes and writing with mental and physical awareness, not to mention a healthy sense of humor. Whether leading at a large outdoor events, in a classroom, or in the home of a client her philosophy for teaching is simple - teach with love, empathy, patience and humility. Yoga is a journey, not a destination.