Some of my favorite quotes from Yogi Bhajan involve his creative similes and metaphors for meditation. He taught that it’s like taking a bath, or taking out the trash, or any other cleaning imagery. You hold your postures, say your mantras, and all the crap comes floating to the surface ready to be skimmed off. For whatever reason, I’ve always found this aspect of his teachings appealing – perhaps because I know that there is plenty of stuff lurking in my subconscious that needs to be cleaned out. However the intellectual knowledge that yoga and meditation do this is very difficult from having the experience of it. And when the experience of coming face to face with your own mental garbage hits you, it can be really uncomfortable. In my case, I came back from the most recent Sat Nam Fest in a really difficult head space. Where previous festivals left me feeling energized and excited, this time I was feeling so low that the only thing I wanted to do was sleep. My initial happiness at being reunited with my sweet husband and 3 kitties gave way to a malaise so oppressive that I could barely work. I knew things were getting extreme when my husband, who lives with chronic depression, told me he was getting concerned. So what can you do when the yoga blues strike?
The first thing to keep in mind is that yoga is not actually making you sad. The kriyas and meditations of Kundalini yoga (and any other type of yoga, really) are transformative tools. When we become aware of the things in our subconscious minds that are holding us back, we can take steps to remove the blocks and move forward. The steps required to do this will differ from person to person, and issue to issue. You may need to continue your chosen kriya or meditation for a period of time. You might need to confront a person with whom you have an issue. Or it may be that the simple awareness of what is going on will be enough to start you on the path of healing. Consult with your yoga teacher, or a trusted friend if you need some advice.
Take care of yourself physically. When you’re feeling down, be sure to do everything you can to support your physical body as it helps to process the emotions you are feeling. The mind-body connection is very powerful, and you can use it to your benefit. Instead of indulging in unhealthy foods, try to eat nutrient rich, healthy options. Consider taking some extra supplements and/or probiotics, to further support your physical body. Get enough sleep at night so that your mind can process and clear out unnecessary information while you sleep. If sleep is proving difficult, try reciting Kirtan Sohila, or practicing some yoga to help you get a good night’s rest.
Take care of yourself emotionally. When difficult feelings or issues come up, many of us don’t know how to react. Some people suppress their negative emotions, feeling that expressing them would be an imposition on those around them. Some people explode with anger, give in to bouts of despair, or otherwise dive headlong into an unhealthy expression of what they are feeling. There is a balance between suppressing what you are feeling and indulging in negativity. Again, if you are having issues, reach out to someone you trust who can look more objectively at what is going on in your life. Ask your yoga teacher for a good meditation or kriya that can help you work through your emotions in a healthy way.
Sometimes these challenging feelings are an expected part of a yoga practice, and sometimes they seem to strike out of nowhere. If you weren’t expecting the feelings that have come up, you might want to consider adding a practice like Kirtan Kriya, or another meditation that could help to support your subconscious. You could also listen to some supportive and soothing mantras. I’m particularly fond of The Sweetest Nectar by Simrit, and I Am Thine by Jai-Jagdeesh when I am feeling a little low.
These are just a few of the things that I did to help get myself out of my funk and back to my usual self. What do you do when yoga stirs up difficult feelings in your life?