Yoga for Inner Peace: 12 Poses to Release Sadness - Yoga Journal

Yoga for Inner Peace: 12 Poses to Release Sadness

Colleen Saidman Yee, who leads Yoga Journal's upcoming Yoga for Inner Peace online course, discusses the importance of letting yourself feel sad, and demonstrates a sequence to release grief and other festering emotions.
Colleen Saidman Yee performs Modified Child’s Pose.

In Yoga Journal's online course, Yoga for Inner Peace, Colleen Saidman Yee—acclaimed yoga teacher, fashion model, and the wife of yogi Rodney Yee—offered 3 yogic practices a week for 12 weeks to transform your body, mind, and heart and support YOU in your personal journey toward inner peace. Here, she discusses the importance of letting yourself feel sad, and demonstrates a sequence to release grief and other festering emotions.

The Importance of Feeling Sad

Roshi Joan Halifax, who has spent the last 45 years working with death and dying, says one of the biggest problems in our society today is unexpressed grief. We are so afraid to feel sad that we cover it up. Soon, we start to believe the masks that we put on, and who we really are gets buried deeper and deeper. The body knows what’s real and what isn’t. So if we continue to live this façade, human-to-human connection gets confusing, and we end up feeling isolated and misunderstood, rather than content and peaceful.

Mr. Iyengar said that if you don’t want your world to change, don’t step on your mat. It becomes so much more difficult to BS yourself and others once the practice is in your bones. You know when you’re lying, and it feels horrible. Again, the body knows more than the brain, and a yoga practice fosters that intimacy and ability to listen to the body. It becomes more and more difficult to ignore or cover up emotions. How many times have you rested in Savasana and cried for seemingly no reason? Maybe it’s relief from a lifetime of feeling the need to shut down.

See also Feel Happier: Poses for Depression & Anxiety

Ramanand Patel (my husband, Rodney Yee's teacher) was just here teaching at my Yoga Shanti studio in Sag Harbor, New York. He talked about the importance of release, and said that the two main ways to let out festering emotions are laughing and crying. He pointed out that over our four days together, I would make a joke when things got sentimental or sad. On the last day, he looked me in the eyes and said, "You need to cry more." Because I’ve been in front of the camera since I was 19 as a model, I learned how to shut down the tears. My eyes swell when I cry, and that makes my clients unhappy. So Ramanand nailed me and gave me permission to let go of my stoic façade. I took it on, and now I cry pretty much every day. I don’t look for things to cry about, but I no longer shut down the impulse (I’m watching the Olympics with tears streaming down my face as I write this). My tears are tears of sadness, empathy, and joy. My face and shoulder muscles have softened, and I’m better able to sit with not only my sadness, but other people's sadness. Taking off my mask has given others permission to do the same. From here, real communication and connection can thrive.

When we conceal our emotions, we get stuck in protection mode. The following sequence begins with Sun Salutations to shake up the body in all directions in order to clear out the hardness. I recommend doing these postures without being rigid, even if that means not going all the way into each pose. Match your breath to the movements.

Slideshow: 12 Poses to Release Sadness

YOU WILL NEED A block and a blanket.

See also Yoga for Depression