“What if you found a spiritual method that focused completely on being right here?
What if it did not require you to change yourself in any way in order to find yourself?
What if you didn’t have to go away from yourself in order to go deeper?
What if you could stop comparing yourself to something or someone that you imagine to be better or truer or more spiritual?
What if transformation were a natural, spontaneous process that occurs only when you stop being so busy trying to change yourself?” A. H. Almaas.
Most of us are not unfamiliar with the experience of contracting or shrinking from the lack of time, lack of attention, lack of breathing or lack of kindness. The grip of our muscles, grip around our breath, grip around our life stories is held by the habitual tendency of our mind to be elsewhere, to have things otherwise, to strive for what we don’t have.
Immersed in the sea of constant “doing” we miss just resting in the state of simple being, time in which we allow all the “doing” to stop.
My sense is that in the early days, when yoga was first being developed, the main practice was to embody the pause. Those first Yogis found that by consciously relaxing into themselves, into simple presence they were able to access new ways of knowing and being and thereby become more resourced by the intuition. I imagine that it was out of that centered meditative awareness that the poses and other yogic techniques emerged. The yogis simply moved into them as a result of their meditative practice. Then they practiced and taught these to others as a way of finding or returning to that meditative state, a way of establishing a line of inner connection with the deeper and wider dimension of their lives. Symbolically, they were tending the inner fire, this sacred fire of aliveness, inspiration, emergence, resulting in spontaneous, intuitive, uncalculated revelations, specific and appropriate to the moment.
There are many ways to uncurl our bodies and minds and tend to that secret fire. Yin yoga and how it cultivates the qualities of stillness, receptivity, and surrender is one of them. It’s a way of embodying the pause. And here are three very simple and very effective principles for the yin practice:
Give your body a space to open up and invite you to go deeper. After thirty seconds or so, body releases and greater depth is possible. Listen to the body and respect its requests. We don’t use our body to get into a pose; we use the pose to get into our body.
Once we have found the edge, we settle into the pose and let go of the movement. Evoking the qualities of patience, acceptance and surrender we settle in the stillness.
The stillness of the body … like a majestic mountain
The stillness of the breath … like a calm mountain lake
The stillness of the mind … like the deep blue of the sky
There are a few exceptions here: we move if we experience pain or if we are struggling to stay in the pose. We move if the body has opened and is inviting us to go deeper or if there is a natural urge to explore, adapt, adjust.
When we have arrived at our edge, once we have become still, all that is left to do is to stay. The yin yoga positions are usually held for 2-5 minutes. The yin tissues we are exercising are not elastic tissues. They do not respond well to constant movement: they are plastic. Plastic tissues require long-held, reasonable amounts of traction to be stimulated properly.
On the physical level, Yin yoga is a practice that affects the yin tissues of the body through slowness, steady, passive and long stretches. It brings suppleness, fluidity to the connective tissues (mainly the legs, pelvis, sacrum, and spine). This kind of practice decompresses the joints and gives one access to deeper layers of fascia allowing for deep release to be experienced. The sessions can be designed to meet different corners of our physical, psychological and subtle anatomy.
On the subtle level, Yin yoga creates the opportunity for the intimate participation in the unfolding moment and opens to insights into the landscapes of the body, energy movements, and mind. This meditative approach to the practice gives the opportunity to meet one’s edges rather than try to overcome, fix or fight with them. We are invited to meet, befriend and even celebrate the places we are most cramped, we are being invited to love and care for ourselves there. We are accompanying our body in the process of opening up. This is where the obstacles become opportunities, its where we meet aliveness that stretches our capacity to feel more. It invites us to soften towards intensity, to open to more life as it is felt from within. That feeling, that just being and welcoming life in it is enough. No striving to become someone better, but resting in deep belonging of who I can access myself to be in this the moment. You are very welcome to pause together with us in the yin side of yoga here at www.yogatree.org.uk and various Yoga Retreats.