Emotions are tangible: When we’re mad or upset, a blush starts creeping up over our neck and face. When we’re nervous, inevitable butterflies start fluttering in our midsection. When we’re happy, we feel it head to toe.
It’s nothing new that emotions are connected to physiological changes, like sweaty palms or a racing heart. But new research shows that certain emotional states are universally associated with particular sensations.
A team in Finland set up an experiment asking people to chart where they felt different emotions, and the results across the board were fairly consistent.
About 700 volunteers were shown two blank silhouettes, and then asked to think about one of 14 emotions (i.e., anger, love, depression, etc.). Volunteers painted areas of the body that that particular emotion stimulated on one silhouette, and on the other, they painted parts of the body that felt deactivated.
Patterns soon emerged. For example, happiness radiates throughout the entire body, head to toe, while almost the entire body feels disconnected during depression. Anger flares up in the entire upper body, including head, chest, and arms — one of the few emotions that really sparked the arms.
How does this relate to the yoga world? Yoga is made for inner reflection; perhaps yogis are already in tune with these emotions, or striving for that connection. Yoga and meditation have shown to increase activity in certain areas of the brain, which in turn decrease stress and worrying. Regardless, it’s fun to see how emotions are reflected in the body on a canvas.