Our lives are so busy, full of activity, distraction, movement, planning, doing – all very yang-like, leading us away from inner balance. We need to cultivate opposite qualities like calming, stillness and surrender (yin aspects) to settle into equilibrium. Because modern living is so out of balance, yin yoga is the perfect practice to counteract this and return us to harmony.
We carry layers of tension – physical, emotional and mental. Yin is a practice of undoing, dropping tension from the deepest parts of our being. As we sink into the pose, we become still and allow the body and mind to release what needs releasing.
In yin we spend a long time in a pose, to move the stretch deep into the body, targeting joints and connective tissue. As these tissues are strong, the way to massage and release tightness is a gentle tug over time (usually a few minutes). The body responds by lengthening, strengthening the fibres, improving the flow of fluids and energy into that area.
The main connective tissue targeted is fascia, which covers everything in our body, creating a 3D-like matrix. Fascia allows muscles and other tissues to move and slide over one another when well lubricated. As we age, are injured, even when we sleep, fascia can become dry and stuck together, leaving us to feel “shrink-wrapped” in our own body. Yin restores and hydrates fascia enabling improved joint range of motion, flexibility and suppleness.
Staying in a pose for a few minutes can feel challenging, especially if the sensations are strong or the mind is busy. We use mindfulness techniques to rest awareness with the breath and on the sensations arising. We sit with ourselves in the raw experience of the present moment – with no distractions, no need to avoid or change the experience, just sitting with acceptance. We become the observer to the never-ending waves of thoughts, feelings, plans, memories, allowing them to come and go like waves moving onto a beach and returning to the ocean – without grasping, without following, without indulging.
As we free ourselves from our constant mental distractions, we learn to be, we learn to rest in our true nature and experience our own inner bliss and come to accept the impermanent, ever-changing flow of life. We drop the resistance, we release the tension, we undo what needs undoing and surrender into the present.
Suggested Pose (photo above): supported fish – this pose counteracts rounded shoulders often caused from spending long hours at computers or driving; opens the heart and lungs to enhance breathing; releases the neck, shoulders and thoracic spine.
Come into the pose with the knees bent and lower your upper back over a prop (block or book), placing it at the base of the shoulder blades (bra line), allowing the shoulders to hang freely. Depending on the height of the prop, you may need another one to support your head, or rest your head to the floor – only take your neck back into a gentle arch, allowing the throat to open and soften. If your back is comfortable, extend the legs, otherwise keep them bent. If the prop is too high for your spine, use a rolled up towel placed underneath the shoulder blades. Rest here for at least 3 minutes, explore softening the muscles around the ribcage and bringing the breath into the front, side and back ribs. To come out, bend the knees, engage your core, bend the arms and use the forearms to help slowly bring you off the prop, gently roll yourself to the side and lie flat on your back for another couple of minutes.
To explore this practice deeper, come and join the Winter Nourish Yin Yoga workshop, 19th August. Or join the weekly Yin class, Tuesdays at 5.45pm. Contact Rachel for more information.