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Thoughts from Vintage Yoga...

Svadhisthana ~ Emotions & Water

Because of its connection to the water element, it makes sense that emotions are an aspect of Svadhisthana, the sacral chakra. Like water, there is an ebb and flow to our emotions. When life is going well, we are calm and content like the water in a sparkling river or a tranquil ocean. But when it rains, the water in the river moves more swiftly and swells to the edges of the riverbed. Likewise, when there is a storm on the ocean, the waves grow bigger and become more turbulent.

You may recognize this pattern in your emotions as well; I like to think of it as life storms. Think about a time when you experienced difficulty in your life. Maybe it was a breakup, the death of a family member, loss of a job, or someone “wronged you.” You may recall the emotions that came along with that. Maybe you felt sadness, grief or anger.

The reality is that no one is exempt from this emotional ebb and flow because we all experience “life storms.” What’s important is what we do with those storms when they come.

It's helpful to remember that life storms, like storms in nature, are temporary. They come, they disrupt the flow of life and then they pass. When we hold on to the emotions associated with the life storm, that is when we experience difficulties in life, especially if we hold on to negative emotions.

In your mind, think again about a time when you experienced difficulty in your life. What was that experience like for you? What emotions do you feel as you remember that time? Do you find yourself holding on to those feelings or are you able to feel them and let them go?

Many people find it difficult to “feel” their emotions, or they are overly emotional. This happens for a variety of reasons.

We live in a culture that tells us to “Stay calm and fill in the blank.” We’re afraid to speak out or express how we feel for fear of hurting someone else’s feelings or being rejected.

As children, we’re told, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Or “Don’t be a big baby.” The Svadhisthana chakra develops during early childhood, around six months to two years of age and so, these messages from well-meaning parents told us it’s not okay to express how we are feeling. Children who are not permitted to express themselves often grow up withholding emotions or they may become overly emotional.

As a result, we live in a society filled with people who often don’t know what they’re feeling or why they’re feeling that way. We self-medicate with food, alcohol, drugs, and drama trying not to feel whatever is we’re feeling. One of the best gifts you can give yourself is noticing what you are feeling when difficult emotions arise.

It is useful to know that there is a difference between emotions and feelings. I have always used these terms interchangeably, but it turns out they are different. Understanding the difference can help you navigate relationships with others and with yourself.

Emotions are a natural, physiological response to an event or situation. Many experts agree that there are generally six primary emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. The feelings we experience related to each emotion are considered secondary emotions. Feelings are the result of how or what we think about the event or situation.

For example, many years ago, as a brand-new teacher, I had some well-meaning parents launch a very serious complaint against me. The complaint had me standing before the school board defending myself. I was of course absolved from the accusation but for nearly my entire career every time a parent wanted to meet with me would send me into a panic, wondering what I had done. Did I say or do something wrong? It was only my thinking that created the fear because I continued to cling to the negative emotions of the experience.

Here's another personal example that demonstrates how our thinking can affect our emotions. Recently, Juan and I were at a party. Other than the hosts, I knew only one other person at the party. Initially, I chatted with a group of “new friends” whom the host had introduced me to. Gradually those people began to mingle with other people they knew, and I found myself sitting alone on the couch in a room full of people.

Suddenly, I was feeling insecure and even afraid. I sat there looking around and having a conversation in my head. “I’m all alone.” “You could just go up to someone and start talking.” “Yeah, but who? What do I say?” I sat there frozen for quite a while having this inner dialog that was accompanied by fear and self-doubt. I could even feel my heart racing, my body felt overly warm, and tears were threatening to give me away!

Being in crowds at social events has always been difficult for me. I honestly don’t recall when I first became so insecure in group situations. What I understand now is that the emotions and feelings I experienced were completely because of my thinking, and most likely based on past experiences. I think this understanding will help me navigate similar situations in the future with a different mindset.

This may be true for many people. In a world where we often lack a sense of belonging, we withhold our emotions because we want to be accepted.

Withholding our emotions is one way that energy moving through the sacral chakra can become blocked. Clearing this blocked energy happens when we become more self-aware, and we learn to express our emotions in healthy ways. It’s okay to be afraid, but when fear keeps us stuck, that’s not okay. It’s alright to be angry, but when we are angry all the time or that anger manifests into feelings of hate, resentment, and bitterness, that is not healthy.

So, this month, begin noticing your emotions. Acknowledge how you are feeling and try to understand why you are feeling that way. You may realize that the feelings you are experiencing are connected to an old emotional wound that perhaps you’re ready to let go of.

With Love & Gratitude,

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