Following up on my previous post on the Healing Art of Yin Yoga, I want to share with you the 3 secrets on healing the issues in your tissues. When issues (e.g. stress, tension, trauma and jaw-clenching fear) aren’t processed and resolved, they start to express as constant bodily tension and creep deeper into your tissues to become knots in your physical, mental, emotional, energetic and spiritual being, obstructing the flow of life force to and through you.
I teach a therapeutic approach to yoga where yoga is used as ‘medicine’ to help us release chronic stress and deeply held ‘knots’ in our being. When the boulders in the river impeding flow, we naturally restore the flow of fluid, energy and breath into our system. We will begin to feel lighter, we breath easier and we feel greater sense of ease, belonging and we may even catch a glimpse of our inherent dignity and innate essence.
Here are the three secrets to try with a stillness Yin practice to help you melt away your blocks:
- Appropriate Edge
The more you soften, the more you will heal your blocks and embody who you truly are. The more you reconnect and make peace with your body on the mat, the more you can make peace with everything in your life.
1 Appropriate Edge
This is how we start Yin poses. We begin by finding a point in a pose where we feel a stretch or stress that is above neutral but below pain. As with all exercises, physical safety is key and the appropriate edge is Yin’s safety net. The safety factor comes from the understanding of what “appropriate” means.
The edge is appropriate so it’s not aggressive, manipulative and/or imposed with force. There is no judgement or criticism either. It is an edge you feel enough stretch to create a static “stress”, “duress” or “compression” without pain.
Once we have found our appropriate edge, we will hold within this edge for a while.
Each time in the same pose our edge changes, as our body changes every day, hence it is important that we learn to listen to our body. Hence, in Yin Yoga, we are led by sensations in the present not expectations of the future. For example, in the butterfly pose, most of the time, I feel the appropriate edge in my left inner thigh area, but on the days where I lack sleep, I also feel it on my lower back. It’s a sign my kidneys are tired.
In our high speed world today, we are driven by results and performance and sometimes we push ourselves so hard that we suffer from burnt out on all levels of our energy sources – physiological, mental, emotional and spiritual.The finding of our appropriate edge is an antidote to this.
When we find an appropriate edge on the mat, we are recognising and accepting our limits without judgment, criticism, aggression and without the need to change or improve it. Just a honest inner acceptance of where we are in this moment. This sounds easier said then done- it takes courage and willingness to accept things, especially with things which challenge us to our limits. This willingness takes practice and patience to cultivate. It is a willingness to love, accept and approve where we are at this point in time. Are you willing?
Moreover, I think we are all familiar with this prayer:
“Please grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference”
Finding the appropriate edge on our mat is also an opportunity to practice the above aspiration.
Once we arrive at our appropriate edge, we remain still. Here, there are three levels of stillness :
Be still in your body, like the majestic mountain
Be still in your breath, like the calm sea
Be still in your mind, like the blue sky
At first, this may sound quite torturous but I promise there are many good reasons why we hold still physically, emotionally and mentally! I will be writing more about the emotional and mental benefits of stillness in my upcoming post. For now, here are the physiological benefits.
There are however two exceptions to stillness in the pose: when we feel pain or struggling with the pose or when our body opens up inviting us to move deeper into the pose.
When we engage in muscles strengthening workouts, we are stressing our superficial muscles through repeated movements. However, by contrast, when we engage in Yin yoga, we are nourishing our deep connective tissues, fascia and meridians through static stress and hold – stillness.
On a physical level, when we remain still in a yin pose, we are applying controlled compression or stress on a particular area. This in turn will encourage “Qi” or energy to move in its own accord to where it is needed. Our body has within it the source of great intelligence, so the invitation is to listen and trust our body.
Over time through repeated practice, the deeper tissues, fascia and meridians will be moistened. This is because the long holds will encourage the hyaluronic acid in our joints to uncoil, creating space for hydration to reach the area. As a result, we will feel greater pliancy within our natural range of movement. I tell my students about getting juicy joints and they often think I am just teasing them, I am not! Our joints really do get more juicy with the higher level of hydration by holding still.
Once we are still, we stay for a period of time from 2 minutes to 20 minutes. Normally in my classes, we hold for 3 minutes. In my personal practice, I stay for at least 10 minutes! Staying in yin poses this way is similar to acupuncture where we put our body in static compression, nourishing our yin / deep tissues and our meridians / organs.
The intensity of the Yin poses comes from the time we remain in the pose, rather than the depth of the pose.
With continued practice this way over time, our joints will become more juicy and we will begin to feel greater ease and grace in stillness and movement. There are of course other benefits energetically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually too which depends on how open you are to welcome such benefits.
The invitation : on your mat and in your life, are you willing to stay with that uncomfortable spot and do nothing about it? It is not easy for any of us to stay with the uncomfortable as the tendency is to run away from anything which makes us feel stretched or uncomfortable.
Yet often, growth and transformation occurs when we stay with that uncomfortable spot just like how lobsters grow. Eventually, we may even becomes friends with our fears and pain and instead of resisting them. We begin to exhale and smile at our challenges. If we can be open, willing and courageous to stay with the uncomfortable, we allow space for clarity and breakthrough to manifest naturally.
But please don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself, you have nothing to lose and only everything to gain.
Finally, it is important to rest in shavasana (corpse pose) after yin practices for at least 5 minutes. Often shavasana is ignored which I do not recommend. In fact, in traditional yoga, the practitioners rest after each pose in shavasana before starting the next pose. I start my classes in shavasana and my students just love it. During the yin practices, our body has undergone static stress and we need to balance this stress with rest. Resting our body this way is crucial as it balances the stress we have created and allows the activated Qi in our body to travel to wherever it is needed for nourishment and healing.
Resting in shavasana is the golden seal to end and reinforce our Yin practices.
p.s. Want to be juicy and practice ONLINE together? HWM’s JUICY OM Online OM Virtual Studio is coming soon, sign up for the waitlist HERE!
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