The Mind-Body Connection Is for Real: When Stretching Releases More Than Tight Muscles

When Stretching Releases More Than Tight Muscles - the mind-body connectionOh it was just your average Friday. Crying in yoga class for absolutely no apparent reason. NBD …

Towards the beginning of a yoga class I took last week, the instructor had us in rag doll. She spoke of letting the head hang heavy to release the neck and mentioned that if we tend to hold tension there, fully releasing can feel a bit unsafe.

I checked in with myself. The back of my neck felt really tight, as if it were under a heavy pressure. The thought of relaxing the muscles did feel a little (physically) unsafe. I took a deep breath in anyway and on the exhale fully released the muscle tension in my neck as best I could. That’s when it hit me.

Emotion swelled up in my chest and I felt intensely upset. Agitated, sad, angry–I was extremely emotionally and physically uncomfortable. Tears started to rim my eyelids, everything felt “off” and I wanted out of the pose, out of class, out of my own skin.

Then, just as suddenly as I was overcome with these negative emotions, they seemed to wash away. I felt fine. Great, actually. I could have stayed in that forward fold for the entire duration of class.

Whoa what the hell was that?!

When Stretching Releases More Than Tight Muscles - the mind-body connection

WEARING | Fabletics bra (<–currently doing a Labor Day sale and giving you your first outfit for only $15!) + Alo Yoga Goddess Leggings c/o Amazon (also obsessed with the high-waisted moto legging from Alo)

A seemingly rudimentary yoga pose triggered a complete catharsis. Weird, unexpected, but the more I thought about the experience, the more it started to make sense to me. I don’t have great posture by any means. My shoulders roll forward and my neck looks permanently craned. Anatomically, it makes sense that I’d feel muscular tightness in the back of my neck due to this poor postural alignment. And on a deeper level–this is where the post gets a little “new age” and a few of you might roll your eyes haha–I see an interesting emotional connection as well.

Why do I have poor posture? Sitting at a computer all day doesn’t help, but it started all the way back in middle school when I started to become painfully self-conscious about my above-average height. Today I LOVE being tall, but being a solid six inches higher than every boy in the 6th grade is a true struggle for a pubescent girl (it was for me anyway). I would stand with a wide stance, stick one hip out, slouch downward, hunch my shoulders–anything to seem shorter next to my classmates. And that pretty much continued all throughout high school as well.

So in a way, that area of physical tightness also represents a lot of insecurities and less-than-pleasant emotions for me. Could it be that these past couple years of regular yoga practice have not only helped release the tight muscles, but the emotions onto which they were tightly clenching?

I’ve had this physical trigger of an emotional release happen once before when I was a kid. My mom brought me to an acupuncturist (not for any specific reason, just to get me on her patient roster) and when I left the appointment, I started sobbing in the car. I was agitated, uncomfortable, intensely upset for no apparent reason and just remember saying over and over again to my mom, “I hated that, I’m never doing acupuncture again, I hate it, I hate it, why’d you make me do that?!” But even then I didn’t really think the unexpected wave of negative emotions was really directed at the acupuncture. Rather the acupuncture had somehow released pent-up, unresolved sadness and anger that my body had been holding.

This was a bit of a random post, but I keep thinking about how cool it was to experience such an intense moment of connection between mind and body. As I physically let go of the tension in my neck, I emotionally let go of some junk as well.

Or, maybe I’m making something out of nothing and I just had a surge of PMS. I’m open to that, too. 😉

Have you had an experience like this before? Was it in yoga class? At a chiropractor? Where? So interested to hear from you guys on the topic–would love for you to share in the comments section!

P.S. Just realized that the title of this post makes it totally sound like I’m talking about farting. L. O. L.


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  1. Danielle @ Wild Coast Tales says:

    Oh I’ve had this many times before in yoga! Probably because it’s one of the few places where we’re actually given the space and time – and encouraged to – release. I used to have similar strange emotions and mood swings after going to acupuncture! Such a crazy experience.

  2. I had this happen to me in yoga a few weeks ago! I completely understand. Granted, I blamed it on PMS too so I don’t know what to fully believe. But combined with something the yoga teacher said during class, I started crying in savasana. I felt so much better after but the tears surprised me!

  3. LOVE this post! It makes me really want to try acupuncture!

  4. Yes! I wrote many posts on this! You SHOULD cry during yoga!

  5. This has never actually happened to me at Yoga but I do understand why it could. Very interesting post.

  6. This happened to me in spin class once! I was in the dark room and we were just getting started and the music was building slowly. The instructor told us something along the lines of letting go of all of our worries because everything is going to be ok in the end and none of these small worries that usually consume our brains matter much in the big picture. I had been super stressed out at work and when he said all of that, I got very emotional and almost started sobbing on my bike. I think I just needed someone to put things into perspective for me, and the atmosphere of the room helped me really let go!

    • I had that happen in spin class once too when the instructor said something that particularly hit a sensitive spot — was very thankful for the dim lighting at that moment. 😉

  7. I completely believe in the the mind body connection! I hold a lot of tension in my hips I started doing yoga pretty recently and I took a yoga class where he held resting pigeon for 4 minutes on each side. As a runner that is a long long time to hold a stretch in the hips. I’m always wound up. Anyhow, there was a moment in class where I was just laying there and I started tearing up. I just felt so sad and I didn’t have any idea why. I felt uncomfortable for crying but I couldn’t stop the tears until we came out of the pose (it was a quiet tearing up lol) When I left that class I had never felt so comfortable in my life. I went home in such a good mood and didn’t even experience hanger when it was so late and we still had to figure out dinner. That’s when I knew I enjoyed yoga. It releases something and grounds you.

    • 100% agree. I used to half-heartedly practice yoga for the physical benefits, knowing I needed to stretch more, but when I finally started realizing and feeling the mental/emotional benefits of it THAT’S when I began to love the practice. 🙂

  8. Lovely post, thanks for sharing! It’s nice to know others have similar experiences. I thought I was a weirdo lol 😉

  9. The same thing has definitely happened to me– for me it usually happens in heart opening exercises. When I was doing yoga teacher training in June we were doing a seriously intense back bending workshop and I felt that serious emotional release in the midst of trying to get into wheel pose. It’s really bizarre to experience and I started crying for no reason.

    As “new age-y” as it sounds, I think it’s all totally connected to previous experiences and pent up emotions.

  10. Honestly I cry at the drop of a hat so 100% experience this. It has been a source of much confusion from my boyfriend, to say the least!

    • Haha I hear that! When I got back from yoga my boyfriend asked me how it was and I responded “I cried–it was awesome!” *confused stare*

  11. One of my first ever yoga classes I did in morocco this happened to me – I cried my eyes out for no reason or so I thought, but happy to know it happens to lots of people. x

  12. Been there too, crying at yoga.

    How tall are you now

  13. As a (nearly) qualified Dance Movement Psychotherapist, I couldn’t help but think ‘YES!’ several times when reading this post. I’m trained in a mode of psychotherapy that completely acknowledges the connection of mind and body – emotions can come out through the simplest movements or release. Memories can be held unconsciously and more and more research is being done about how we hold trauma in the body. I loved this post, and your reflections on your experience. Thank you for sharing.

  14. The heading attracts me to read this. find it useful. Just started Yoga.

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