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The Curious Emotional Circle

elliebio2Some of my best learnings are prompted by my dog.

A few weeks ago we had a home disaster (a literal s#!t storm) that involved calling three plumbers to the rescue. While they waited outside my house, terrified of my dog, she got more and more excited about the idea of seeing people.

When I got home I let them in and introduced them to my very friendly, albeit highly enthusiastic, dog. In her extremely excited state, she got to the point where she could no longer physically contain her emotion and threw up all over the floor in front of the plumbers. I was laughing so hard I had to sit down, and the plumbers looked at us like we were both crazy.

Through this observation of extreme emotion and physical reaction, I’m reminded of something one of my teachers told me in my very first teacher training:

The way that we relate to our emotions is like a giant circle. We have big ups: excitement (sometimes to the point of vomiting), high energy, anxiety, etc., and we have big downs: depression, laziness, procrastination, etc. Our practice of yoga doesn’t clear these emotions, but it reels them in, so our circle gets smaller and smaller until we can more easily observe our ups and downs in a way that we’re sitting with and observing emotion, but not so deep in them that it’s impossible to see past.

My dog doesn’t practice yoga much beyond down dog, so her emotional circle is really big. As humans, we have the opportunity to step onto our mats and get really curious about our circles. Without any kind of judgment or a need to “fix” anything, we can simply observe where our circle is today, create a relationship with those available emotions, and maybe even watch the circle start to reel in as we move through our practice.

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