Letting go of emotion

In the fourth part of her series, Dawn looks at the physical impact that holding onto our emotions can have on our bodies.


In the previous articles (Part one, Part twoPart three) we looked at how holding tension in our tissues is the result of energy being held and not released. This tension holds its grip along the lines of connection in our body – the meridians – and disrupts the alignment of muscle and joints. Therefore, our movement patterns don’t allow the forces or load of activity to flow freely and with ease so instead our tissues become overloaded. Overloaded and sore, injured and in pain.

In this way, we can see that when the system is under inadvertent tension, even an innocuous incident can become the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ and lead to an injury. We know how some aspects of our yoga practice can assist with the release of tension – breathing for example – and we know that tension in our tissues is unreleased energy that wants to be in motion. Emotion. 

The question that arises is why don’t we ‘let go’ of the emotion? 

Letting go of emotion

It comes back to the name – e-motion. Energy that wants to be in motion. Emotions want to flow. And the only way for emotions to flow in the first instance is to truly have a channel for releasing, or feeling our feelings. To allow them to arise and to be fully expressed. The joy, the anger, the happiness, the grief, the fear, the sadness, the excitement…

…the only way for emotions to flow is to truly have a channel for releasing, or feeling our feelings. To allow them to arise and to be fully expressed.

Only when fully expressed – fully felt, fully breathed into – can their inherent energy be in motion and therefore released. Fully released they can no longer have a hold on us. This is true from the perspective of being mentally tormented by them, as well as them no longer having a hold on our tissues…

The truth is that our Eastern practices have understood emotions and their connection to the body in a far greater depth than we have in the West. Eastern models understand that different emotions are held in different regions of the body and that in fact they’re held by different organs. At some point here in the West our ancestors must have understood this to some extent because our language reflects this – we experience joy in our heart, have butterflies in our stomach; we get choked up with emotion; our heart aches… Over recent years the tenets of Western biology have been catching up to these ancient Eastern understandings and establishing that from a physical perspective, different emotions do have an impact on the physiology of our organs.*
*Dr Candace Pert was exploring the Molecules of Emotions for the past 40 years.

Reactions in cells

In effect, our emotions are a function of a chemical reaction within cells. Cells function according to the building blocks that they receive – their environment. Provide poor nutrition to our cells and they won’t function well…just like putting the wrong fuel into the car. And say you live your life constantly worried – anxious or in fear – this will have a physical counterproductive effect on the flow of essential chemical reactions within the cells of your body as well.

If our cells have not released their grip on us (or otherwise put, if we don’t release our emotions, the internal organs have a grip on us!), there will be a disturbance along the chain – that same meridian chain that we discussed in relation to the muscle and soft tissue, but their equivalent, internal version. It is in this way that along the meridians, from their internal to external connections, that emotional tension we are holding onto internally can have an external effect on our physical musculoskeletal system. From this perspective, physical pain stems from emotional pain… Suppress emotion and it will find its way to the physical body.

Pain as emotional pain

I happen to think that at the base of all pain is emotional pain. An unreleased emotional hold. In truth, we’ve probably all had experience of this…we’ve been heartbroken and experienced the physical wrench it has on our body and on our inability to function optimally. We understand how the depth of grief too can debilitate us, and how this will literally stop us in our physical tracks. On a positive note, though – we’ve also all felt the physical lift of joy and laughter, the wellbeing of love!

These are all heart-based emotions, and all of these feelings have to be fully experienced in order for us to resume normal function once again…for us to find balance once again. This is also why we say that we’ve had a ‘visceral reaction’ to an event, or seeing some distressing documentary for example – literally, the organs (the viscera) experienced the emotion! Our emotions show themselves for a purpose – to be experienced, or ‘felt’, to get our attention and either to make us feel good or to make us feel not so good. They are there for their message to be understood, to help guide us – literally towards the ‘good’ and away from the ‘bad’.

Our emotions show themselves for a purpose – to be experienced, or ‘felt’…to get our attention. They are there for their message to be understood, to help guide us – literally towards the ‘good’ and away from the ‘bad’.

Stop and listen

So when we fully experience our emotions and take heed of their message, they no longer have to have a grip on us, in any sense. Where our pain arises in our body is not random. In addition, it’s not altogether simply a function of having had ‘an injury’, an accident or mishap either. These things show themselves in our physical body when the body is trying to get our attention over some other matter!

Oftentimes an injury is literally making us to stop and listen, to take heed of what it’s saying. Our yoga practice encourages us to be gentle with ourselves. Our meditation is a space to allow the thoughts and the feelings to rise – to allow them – and then to let them go. To be aware of their presence, to acknowledge them and then to remove any attachment to them. Clearly, this is sometimes easier said than done…but seeking help, well, helps! It is, however, essential so that our emotions cannot have a hold on us, so that we allow them to dissipate and thus allowing us, physically, to flow…

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Dawn Meredith-DaviesHolistic physiotherapist, running movement specialist and yoga teacher, Dawn Meredith-Davies has spent over a decade utilising the powerful benefits of yoga to help others heal from their pain (or to improve their running!). Find her over at LivingGreenHealth.co.uk where she shares her knowledge about our interconnected experiences.