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Feel All the Feels.

What does it mean to “feel all the feels?”

Between my classes at Villanova University and my own children, I spend a healthy amount of time with twenty-somethings. This means I often hear expressions that I’ve never heard before. Some, I don’t even bother figuring out. Some, however, like “feel all the feels” I really like.

For those of you who can’t text a twenty-something to ask what the heck it means, according to the online Free Dictionary by Farlex, “to feel all the feels” means to experience a range of strong emotions. The example given in that dictionary entry is “Oh man. That video for the animal shelter made me feel all the feels. I want to adopt ten puppies now.” See? It’s a good one.

A day full of feels can leave you muddled.

It doesn’t have to be one identifiable thing that makes you feel all the feels. Life itself often does the trick. I’ve had whole days that leave me feeling all the feels. In fact, I had just such a day last week.

I started the morning soaking in the sunshine on my patio as I watered my plants. I felt happy and a little awed as I marveled at how they’d grown since I put them into their pots in May. I felt relaxed and spacious as I took my time pruning off some dead leaves and gently moving the plants aside to get the watering can close to the soil.

Then we went to church. After a blast of extroversion greeting friends on the way in, I felt quiet and centered as I read the verses for the day and listened to the opening music. I felt expansive as I joined the rest of the congregation singing the hymns. I felt deeply connected to people I know and love as I knelt in prayer.

Then we drove into the city, car loaded to bursting, to drop our daughter off at school for her junior year. I felt proud of her as we approached Drexel. It amazes me that she knows so certainly what she wants to do professionally at such a young age. I felt excited for her. This is her co-op year and she will be working as a nurse and medical assistant for the next six months.

I also felt sad. It was a rare treat to have her, my middle child, home with no siblings for three weeks. Our time together went quickly, which leaves me feeling a little wistful.

Our arrival at her apartment was a cluster of frustrations. Because the building had not prepared enough rolling carts to handle the number of residents moving in, we were told we would have to carry her belongings to her twelfth floor apartment which made me feel a whole lot of ways – worried about hurting my body, irritated at the building’s poor planning and impatient when it became clear that we would have to wait at least five minutes for each elevator.

Needless to say, I was already struggling with my “feels” as I approached the security desk, literally staggering under the weight of my first load. When I was told, quite rudely, that if I couldn’t show my ID, I could not go upstairs with my similarly laden daughter and husband I nearly lost my temper. Actually, I almost wish I had because then maybe I would not have subjected my loved ones to all of the rage I felt toward the surly, power-hungry woman I’d encountered at the front desk. These were not the “feels” any of us needed to feel as we moved our daughter into her apartment.

Why does practicing yoga help when you’re awash in feels?

By the time we got home, I was a literal tangle of feelings. Luckily (for me and for my poor husband), I knew what I needed. I retreated onto my yoga mat to sort myself out.

When I first started practicing yoga, I would have told you that it was the vigorous movement, the sweat and the challenge of Ashtanga yoga that helped me to burn through my “crazies.” And, in a way, I was right. Inevitably, I rolled up my mat and got back in my car feeling more stable, centered and sane than when I walked into class.

Nowadays, I’d describe what transpires on my mat a little differently. As I move and breathe (whether slowly or speedily, whether gently or vigorously), I am paying keen attention to myself. I am watching my alignment. I am checking in with my bandhas or my core. Not only am I controlling my breathing, but I am coordinating each movement I make with my breath. And that’s just what’s going on with my body.

Not only does my practice give me an intimate and powerful understanding of how I am doing physically (whether I’m feeling energetic or exhausted, whether I’m feeling strong or weak, whether I’m feeling spastic or graceful), but it gives me an up-close and personal look at my feelings. Whatever “feels” I’m feeling show up on my mat within minutes. Sad, happy, angry, frustrated, irritable, worried, confused, excited, panicked, or any perplexing combination of the above become clear to me through my practice.

From muddled mess to clarity and self-compassion – thanks to yoga.

As odd as it might sound, this clear awareness of how I’m feeling is usually a revelation. Often times I’m such a muddled mess that I don’t actually know specifically how or what I’m feeling when I unroll my mat. I just know I need to do so. When I sit up from savasana (resting pose), the clarity I’ve gained about what is going on within me gives me more than understanding. It leaves me with some new “feels.”

Witnessing my emotions in my practice, leaves me feeling compassionate for myself. After all, I’m just a gal trying to be the best person she can be in the face of whatever life is dishing my way. Practicing also leaves me feeling somehow lighter. I might still want to tell you about the super rude security guard, but my rage has dialed down to annoyance. I might still be missing my girl, but mostly I’m excited for her. And, after turning inward to connect with all my “feels,” I find I can return to my patio and soak up a few more sunbeams feeling much more like the self I hope to be.

Go ahead. Let yourself “feel all the feels.” Then go unroll your mat. There’s no better place than there to figure out that it’s just life that you’re feeling.

Life is filled with feelings. If you’re looking for a practice to help you gain some clarity, visit Yoga With Spirit for a spiritual direction session or a yoga class.