A well blended Yin-ish class can be well rounded practice in itself, if the intention is about a practice that enriches your appreciation for life. The practice restores that gusto for life we all have within, if only we forget that truth – that we are the light; we are the unbridled joy.
In appearance, Yin yoga appears “easier” to teach than say, Power yoga, due to the slower pace, fewer intense, superhuman, acrobatic, fit for gymnasts advance poses risky for most mortals. In other words, it’s an accessible yoga for everyone. It’s also a very compassionate … kind practice. Not to say that it’s not challenging – it’s, for me excruciatingly challenging to stay in a pose any longer than 5 breaths as I feel the urge to move and all the numbing and cramping … extremely uncomfortable BUT I do it. I cope with the discomforts and awkwardness. We place ourselves in poses beyond our comfort zone until we get … comfortable. I cope with the distractions to want to leave it – to go from stillness fraught with battles we wage within. To want to Do than Be. I am unsure of my worth without doing more and more. So in this kind of practice, we are encouraged to instead quiet the monkey mind that tells us to go over that TO DO list and then as the list lengthens, get anxious enough to feel that we cannot afford the time to practice yoga – after all, there’s so much to do in one day, and there’s not enough time to accomplish all that needs getting done, right? So that is the practice – To quell the constant need for validation through doing rather than just … being, being mindful – to reestablish your authentic identity and worth that is not measured by what you do but who you are – to make time; to celebrate you, to care and cherish … YOU with this ultimate practice of self-care that requires a trait we all would benefit from – .that trait of greater patience; less frustrations. It’s a practice.
Perhaps we’ve been trained and brainwashed to think – muscle training, muscle strengthening – muscles are all – BUT we are more than that. Muscles strength is indeed vital to our health and well being but so are the rest – we are more than just muscles and muscle groups – it’s not always about strengthening – we need to stop the clenching and gripping and let go. shake it out – It’s not easy but with practice we can.
So enough lecture – back to the medicinal aspects of this practice – how and why?
When I was a young adult, I recall accompanying my mother to her “doctor” in Meguro, Tokyo. For her various chronic ailments, she would be popping herbal remedies and … going to this doctor who was an acupuncturist who she said with hushed voice – is very hard to get an appointment because he is so popular. Then, she added, if it were not for some introduction, a referral from her friend, she would not have been taken as a new patient. We walk in and there’d be maybe 10 or so exam beds separated by curtains – no private rooms here. And the place was packed. The doctor was bold and had this beautiful glow – flushed facial tone – and would carefully listened to my mom as she described what is it this time that brought her there. Then needles will be administered and while they looked quite long, there were no shrieks or moans – as my mother would say nonchalantly – “oh, there’s no pain – you don’t feel the needles at all.”
So I’ve always had an affinity and curiosity about the treatments my mother depended on to keep her balance – and given that she is well into her **’s, those hours spent with needles stuck in her must have worked:) No I am not an acupuncturist and I was the first to fear needles at doctor’s office but … especially because I fear needles, perhaps Yin yoga to me resembles those treatments in a more primitive and less passive way. (“no needles! Yes!!”) But I have gone under the needles when there was a time when I really felt the need. Went to a series of 10 treatments over time – and I was restored. Sometimes, it’s not drugs, medications, surgeries but just a little bit of ancient wisdom passed down for hundreds of years … how did humans deal with those times when they didn’t feel their best when there were no modern medicine and acute care? This is how. And for many chronic conditions of unease – this is still the way. Not relying on others but to self-administer … licking our own wounds and healing and remaining strong. Left to our devices, we are essentially so strong and capable.
Yin yoga is oftentimes called the ‘needleless acupuncture’ practice – sounds like a misnomer – a nonsense? But instead of inserting a needle above the nerve endings so that there’s no pain, we move, fold, stretch, stress, load and hold a yogic pose (“asana”) in such a way that the energy pathways called the meridians are restored if there are any blockages or narrowing – stagnancy. That pathways can be arteries and veins of the blood circulation or the lymphatic drainage system … as well as the nervous system embedded in the fascia matrix that encases each of our muscle groups. Instead of a needle stimulating to affect a change, it’s the stretching and torquing of the connective tissues that does the job. Of course, it may not feel as potent as an actual acupuncture treatment of even a acupressure massage. While I think there might be some placebo effects, much is compensated by the power of breath and power of self-regulation and self-healing. While it’s wonderful to obtain the professional’s help, not only could we use the pampering but the expert care from time to time – on regular maintenance basis and for prevention – when we take charge of our own self-care, the empowering positive affect on our mind, our psyche is huge – at last, we feel that we are in control of our own condition. To feel in control of our own destiny and to built the endurance and resilience of the discomforts – the pain/pleasure stretch – is what builds the neural pathways of strength to deal with whatever stress and pressures that life brings on. I consider that the greatest gift of Yin yoga – we are in control of our body, mind and spiritual awakening. We are taking back the power, the ability we each have to take much better care of ourselves – to be keenly responsible for our own well-being. Now that the basic foundation is laid out – now – go spin, run, sprint, walk … dance ! Whatever enlivens your soul and gives you joy – let’s do it:) Our energy channels restored, our chi, our prana – our energy is flowing throughout – fluid light and free.