The Yoga of Emotions

by Melissa West on September 6, 2011

The Yoga of the Nine Emotions: Rasa Sadhana


Our next series of yoga classes on Namaste Yoga and in local classes will be dedicated to the practice of Rasa Sadhana as presented in Peter Marchand’s book, The Yoga of the Nine Emotions. Peter Marchand describes rasas as the “essence of our emotions that exist both in our bodies and minds.” He translates Rasa Sadhana as “emotional discipline” and seeks to lay the ground work for mastering and controlling emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, calmness, courage, wonder, joy and love.

Although working with the same emotions, we will however, be taking a slightly different approach. Over the last few weeks of studying the yoga of the nine emotions I became aware of a growing discomfort with ideas such as “overcoming negative emotions” and “emotional fasting.” The idea that emotions are something dangerous and in need of control really did not sit well with me. This morning in my meditation practice I was reminded of the approach we use at Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy in working with our thoughts, messages from our bodies, spirit, and emotions.

The cornerstone of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is to offer a loving presence both to ourselves and our clients. How can we possibly invite awareness unless we create a gentle, safe and loving environment in which we can invite investigation? By creating a compassionate container we are able to move into awareness without judgement. Awareness is a powerful tool, however as we bring awareness to our emotions, we must validate each emotion and allow them to be just as they are. This level of acceptance is crucial for exploring our emotions.

Any inclination to block certain emotions just pushes them deeper into our shadows and labels them as unacceptable. According to Debbie Ford, author of The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, when we suppress certain aspects of ourselves we actually give them more power. These emotions will seek to find a voice, and if not given one, they will speak through the intelligence of our bodies’ as discomfort, pain and dis-ease.

What emotions do you say “yes” to? Around what emotions do you create a barrier of some sort? What would it be like, instead of labelling some emotions as good or bad to just be with your emotional experience as it is with a kind curiosity? Creating an open and curious atmosphere for our emotional experience without any need to judge or change it allows our own unique emotional experience to unfold.

By being present to all we discover in our emotions we are able to observe, recognize and validate each emotion that rises within us. From that spacious place of awareness and acceptance then and only then do we have the gift of choice. At any moment we are choosing for some emotions and against other emotions. What motivates us to choose certain emotions? Where do our choices for certain emotions and against other emotions coming from?  What emotions do you choose to keep in the dark? What emotions do you choose to shine light on? How are you choosing to be with your emotions in this moment? Will you choose more of the same, or something different?

Our emotions reflect the truth of our experience as human beings. They are something we can practice bringing awareness to with loving acceptance.  Over the next eight weeks in yoga class and on Namaste Yoga I have chosen to shine light on fear, sadness, anger, calmness, courage, wonder, joy and love through meditation, the movement of our bodies in asana and breath practice with pranayama. We shall do this as Rumi so eloquently advises in his poem, The Guest House. We will invite each emotion in and entertain them all because each has been sent as a guide. 


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