It could happen to you.

Public crying… for some it’s no big deal.

It’s the bane of my very existence. 

Here’s the story.

I hate crying.

I know it’s a natural response to frustration and hurt and a myriad of other emotions, but it still sucks. As a kid, crying wasn’t welcome in our house.  I grew up with the feeling that it somehow made you seem weak if you showed your hand.

This is not to say I was a stiff upper lip kind of kid, not by any means. I cried at the drop of the hat, but I never felt good about my crying.

I think this may have scarred me, but there it is.

Since becoming a grown up I have tried like hell to keep my tears to myself. Or at least to my closest friends, but sometimes they come out anyway. Even when I don’t want them to.

My most recent display of public crying was this past Friday during our first pose of the day — Baddha Konasana– soles of the feet together, knees splayed out like a butterfly – big hip opener. We were asked to lean our torso over the bent knees and rest.

The way my eyes filled as soon as my knees fell open you would have thought they were a faucet connected to my tear ducts.

Lift the knee up, tears slow down.

Knee down, tears fall.

Much to my chagrin they didn’t stop when I brought my knees up, only slowed a bit. It was almost comical at no matter how hard I tried to keep those tears from falling, they just rained down on my feet and mat.

My inner dialogue? 


Why now?

What is this about?

Is something hurting?

Am I sick?

Am I too tired?

Am I losing my marbles?

Why won’t they stop?

Good god, does anyone notice?

Oh goodie, there goes my nose. It’s like the power sprayer on the nozzle.

Could I be any father away from the box of tissue or a towel!?!

I guess I’ll have to tip toe to the back and try to regain my composure…

During our last session of teacher training we spent some time talking about crying in yoga class and what if anything teachers should do. You may be asking yourself why this is important enough of an issue to devote any time to during a teacher training, but crying in yoga happens a lot.

If you spend enough time on the mat you may find yourself either trying to hold back tears or trying not to slip on the ones that got out despite your best efforts. Or you may just witness someone else lose control of their tear ducts and be happy it isn’t you.

After class we were asked to write what we would do if a student in one of our classes was overwhelmed by emotion that resulted in crying.  I googled the topic to see what the “experts” had to say. I was surprised by my findings. There are articles written about it and many blog posts on the subject. 

Theories abound about why people experience deep outpouring of emotions during yoga: long ago trauma stored in the nooks and crannies of the body, tension release, quieting of the mind, taking care of oneself, and the list goes on and on.

The research was in vain because I already knew what I would do based on my own experience as an accidental crier.


Of course, I love that my teacher quietly checked in with me with a “Anything I can do?” and then left me alone.  For me this crying business is hard enough without anyone calling attention to it. A brief check in, a tissue and that’s all I need and/or want. 

It’s my hope that by sharing this with people they will understand that crying in yoga happens to a lot of people and that it is a completely natural response to this kind of deep body work. It is also my hope that when this kind of emotion is brought up for someone in one of my classes I will provide them the same level of comfort and privacy offered to me.

13 thoughts on “It could happen to you.

  1. Pingback: Teacher Goes Back To School Turns Two! « Teacher Goes Back to School

  2. I don’t mind crying in public (I do try to refrain when teaching:)) but I am totally with you on crying and hip openers. Probably a lot that you need to let go of. I often feel like crying when I’m doing hip opening poses, but I think I hold it in. Now I am going to let it go, so thank you, Tami, as always, for your inspiration!

  3. it’s these personal experiences that make us sensitive and compassionate to others, too. i love that you feel safe in our space… just keep on cryin!!

  4. It’s funny, I actually really love to cry. I mean, I don’t love the fact that I’m upset, if that’s what kind of crying it is– but I love the release. It’s just like a rainfall. So that said, it’s a real drag to cry in public. Especially in a room of caring, open people. Yikes. Because where does the inside of us end, how chaotic will it be, how far will I unravel? How much will come out of me? Just how big is this storm– to follow that rain metaphor out– muggy overcast turned to shots of lightening, flash floods with sound effects, shutters slamming against the house, and so on… You get the picture. Is it okay to feel? Is it really okay to feel, or just something we say is okay? Moments like public crying are definitive acts of when my core is declaring my core values, rather than my shell shelling out rules of what is appropriate. Hell, sometimes I even go against my loudest inner voices– because there is something gentler that needs to be heard…

    Anyhow, that’s a public ramble in itself.

    As a fellow (feline?;)) crier– Town Criers unite.

  5. Me too. Not this weekend, but recently. Tears in yoga class. I am grateful for the environment at IAY, where this type of release is possible and, if noticed at all, is responded to with privacy, support, and love.

  6. Tami THANK YOU! I too hate public crying and am deathly afraid. I love your honest outpouring and it’s truly comforting to know that “it’s ok to cry in class”. My first outpouring like that was at the Calastoga retreat and I was mortified because we were all in a circle looking at each other and the tears would not stop. After reading your story…I hope it happens again! The release is necessary as we are learning. Thanks for being an inspiration to another “non-public cryer”.
    Much Love!

  7. Thank you so much for posting this. During my first yoga class, I was surprised by my “release” and a bit overwhelmed by the strength of my tears….but it was necessary at the time. My teacher was not as gentle as yours, and she was clearly uncomfortable. I know that with your sensitivity and awareness, you will create a safe place for all your students.

  8. th: it is an interesting post. you know that out of the handful of times i have tried yoga, it has been about my body not doing what i want it to do. i never realized (all the spiritual stuff aside) that there is a deeper, more personal and emotional side. i think it is something that is really great and revealing even if the cause might be, at that moment, unknown.

    keep up the excellent work. i’ll be following you :)


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