How to Use Your Body to Deal With (Really) Big Feelings

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Taryn Toomey, founder of The Class by Taryn Toomey, is the embodiment of "living the practice." In each of her sessions, she heightens the mind-body connection by fusing movement and emotion—and even when one Class ends, she keeps her practice going. You can, too—and learning this process can help you cope with all kinds of intense feelings. Here, the Well+Good Council member shares her process for observing her feelings (and, crucially, choosing how to respond to them).

Get ready to get settled

Looking around is a human instinct to make sure that the environment is safe for us to close our eyes. So give yourself permission to scan the room, touch your water bottle, or adjust your clothing. Whatever you need to do, do it. When you're ready, close your eyes and place your hands on your body.

Tune into your body; notice your mind

In The Class, we ask people to wiggle their toes, feel their feet on the floor, and feel their own touch. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and notice your mind. Your brain is an organ; it has a job, which is to create thought. The part of you that's hearing thought is your consciousness, so pay attention—because we're about to take the body out for a ride.

Move and feel

Here, the idea is to use movement to create feelings, and through that, experience our thoughts about those feelings. This process involves actively creating discomfort through a series of movements and noticing the thought that rises. After the thought comes up, we simply use the practice of consciousness to understand that it's only a thought. That means we have a choice of how to respond to that thought. After we understand that it's a choice, we decide if we want to take action or not.

For instance, maybe you're sweating and your heart is thumping. You might notice the feeling and think, "This is really intense" or "This feels good." Whatever it is, notice the thought; then notice that you have a choice. You can keep working out, or you can stop. That's the power of choice.

Take it with you

The brilliant thing about this process is that it doesn't end with your workout. When you follow these steps somatically through the body, it leaves a lasting impression on one's life. It stays with you. And you can apply this practice to experiences throughout the day—when you're walking down the street, in a meeting, with your family, and so forth.

Use awareness to notice your feelings, to notice your thought about the feeling, and to create a moment of pause. Then you don't feel so overwhelmed by thinking that things are just happening to you—you realize that you have space to choose your response. Bring that theory of, "It's a feeling, a thought about a feeling, a choice, and then it's action or not," into those things—and watch what happens.

Try a mini movement series

Need guidance? Try the mini movement series below. You'll be able to actually do the movement while understanding the meaning and intention behind it—and use it to take your practice everywhere you go.

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Breathe. It doesn't need to be a big long thing. Unless you want it to be. #applytoall Take 15 minutes to cleanse your heart and remind yourself that it's up to you. Download, in order : 1) Into the Ether by Liev Vollenekk 2) What a Day by @LondonGrammar 3) Bread & Cheese by A Tribe Called Red 4) Silence ---- 1) Stand tall. Slow squats on the beat. Reach and pull the arms. Feel. Breathe. Join yourself in the movement. 2) Wide straddle. Track knees over toes. Ease the hips low and extend the arms wide. Keep the collar bones broad and shoulder blades down back. Settle in, close your eyes. Simply follow the breath in, and out. In and out. Hold the position for the entire song. The stillness will most likely irritate you. Good. That's the intent. Notice the internal dialogue. Practice staying calm in the storm by breathing and staying clam in the storm. #simplify 3) Hop. Shake. Bounce. Flutter your lips. Weep. Laugh. Move so much that you feel the vibration in your finger tips. Notice the judgement. Release it. Enjoy your freedom. ENJOY YOUR FREEDOM. End of song, get still and place hands on your beating heart. Recover it. Remind yourself how strong it is, YOU are, by feeling it. 4) Sit. Meditate. Notice how different you feel. #reflect #apply #enjoy #awareness #simpletools #helptheheart #soothingthesoul #TheClassbyTT ? @RachaelDunville

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Taryn Toomey headshot for articles
Photo: Rachael Dunville

Known for transforming New Yorkers and Los Angelenos with her magical, virtually unexplainable workout, The Class by Taryn Toomey, Taryn is on a deep soul journey to become one with her past and open herself to higher purpose and greater fulfillment. The Class by Taryn Toomey is currently in New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Greenwich, CT, and the Hamptons—with plans to expand and bring its magic to major cities around the globe.

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