I was lying in the middle of the dance floor drenched in sweat. My feet were throbbing in my high heels, and my legs and arms were lifelessly splayed out. Through all the huffing and puffing to catch my breath, tears started unexpectedly pouring out my eyes and down my cheeks. I had just completed my training that day for an upcoming Latin Ballroom competition. The best Championship couples in the country would be my competitors. My coaches were ruthless in their training and never coddled us while we were on the dance floor. All five of our dances were rehearsed over and over until my partner and I could no longer stand. Had they not pushed me to this level, I would have given up ten run-throughs prior. While this training routine might sound like torture, it was one of the most emotionally cathartic experiences I have ever had.
So much of what we feel as emotional beings is translated into our physical bodies. Stress often creates tension in the neck and shoulders. Anxiety can cause stomach pain, and grief can even lead to a heart attack. Once our bodies speak to us in the form of physical symptoms, it usually means we have been ignoring the root causes for too long.
Holding stress, sadness and tension in our bodies has become so common that feeling those symptoms has become our daily norm.
Unfortunately, our outward facing presentation to the world means everything in our society. Men are expected to be strong, brave, and in control. Women are expected to be pretty, nurturing, and often times subordinate. When a woman stands up to someone in power, she is considered aggressive. When a man cries, he is considered weak. We are so used to having to “hold it together,” that some of us never experience the freedom of letting our emotions go and releasing the built up physical tension.
What I experienced on the dance floor that day, as I lay collapsed from sheer exhaustion dissolving in tears, was a break through my physical wall. I had been pushed beyond any physical limit I thought was possible, to the point where I could no longer hold anything together. Years of pent up anger, sadness, and even joy came gushing out. I was filthy with sweat, vulnerable and stripped down from any egotistical barriers I may have been projecting. All that was left to release were raw, unfiltered emotions–and it felt amazing.
An emotional catharsis can be reached in various ways, but I found that the physicality of a rigorous training session deepened my mind-body connection on a visceral level.
Having that breakthrough experience brought me to my knees in humble gratitude. It fed my passion for dance and inspired me to search for ways through which I could continually release my true emotions so that I didn’t have to carry them in my physical body.
Only through physically challenging activities can we break down the artificial wall we’ve worked so hard to create to constantly present a strong facade to the world. We must access our emotional bodies for true healing to occur.
So go ahead and take that fitness class you’ve been thinking about, pick up that sport you’ve always wanted to try, or simply go for a long run. Challenge yourself physically to surpass your comfort zone,
and resist the temptation to give up too quickly. You may experience a breakdown and shed some tears, but you’ll also discover a renewed sense of inner strength and vitality.
Have you experienced an emotional catharsis during an intense workout? What kind of exercise stirs your feelings?
Also by Crystal: How I Learned to Breathe after I Stopped Dancing
Related: 8 Easy Ways to Relieve Anxiety
Get more like this–sign up for our newsletter for exclusive inspirational content!
Photo: Angela Peterman