Posted at 11:35 on 18 Sep 2011 by Pandora / Blake
A little while ago some friends of mine were talking about their experiences during yoga classes. One asked if she was the only one to experience panic and anxiety during savasana (corpse pose, a relaxation position). It turned out she wasn't, and several people added their own experiences of uncontrollable weeping or a surging of emotion while doing poses which were billed as "relaxing".
Shortly after her boyfriends death, Amanda Coggin, a San Francisco-based writer, was in a small, intimate yoga class. While in the class, she listened to the teacher, who encouraged the participants to breathe deeply and try to clear their minds. As Amanda positioned herself in an asana, she felt an immense release. Suddenly, she said, the tears just came.
Unlike the emotional anxiety and knot-in-throat we normally feel before a big cry, Amanda said these tears were different; they felt more like a letting go than a working up. (Working out emotions, one muscle at a time)
I think the idea of "storing emotions in the body", leading to an emotional release during physical relaxation of tensed muscles, comes from Alexander Technique, but it'll be familiar to anyone who's experienced emotional catharsis from spanking play, or who's used spanking therapeutically. And we're all familiar with the idea of using a work-out to release pent-up stress or tension.
I've had a similar - but not identical - experience during deep tissue massages. Without feeling upset, anxious or sorrowful in any way, the physical pressure can sometimes cause me to sob helplessly. I'm talking big, heaving gut crying that makes your throat ache and leaves you feeling emptied; sort of like the emotional equivalent of being sick. The masseurs and physiotherapists that have treated me have never been surprised by this. Apparently, it's a common reaction. The body tenses and knots muscles in response to stress and anxiety. Even once you put those stresses out of your mind and focus on other things, the physical tensions remain. It can take physical stimulation to unknot them - and when you do, it's as if all the pent-up emotions are released and need to be expressed.
I don't know to what extent it's a chemical phenomenon - are certain hormones or substances trapped in areas of the body and then affect your emotional state when they're released? - or whether it's more psychological. But it seems to me that it can't be very different from using spanking to make you more vulnerable and receptive to held-back emotions, triggering tears which you might have been keeping a tight lid on for days.
It seems that this is a fairly common stage in the relaxation process. But it's very little talked about by yoga and meditation teachers, who often speak as if they expected everyone to transition from tense to relaxed without experiencing any fear, anxiety, or expression of pent-up emotion in the process. Perhaps those who teach and write about relaxation could learn a thing or two from spanking.
Perhaps we don't quite store emotions in our bottoms, exactly ... but I think there are more similarities between spanking, yoga, massage therapy and other relaxation techniques than many practitioners might be prepared to admit.