Breathing in I calm my body. Breathing out I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Yin Yoga is an antidote to the fast pace of life — especially a post-pandemic reality where many of us are on edge, living in a constant state of hypervigilance. In Yin Yoga we practice surrender, acceptance and settling into stillness. Poses are practiced on the floor, and centered on hip and heart openers. The instruction is to settle into stillness and remain in the pose for anywhere from three to five minutes. This gives our nervous system time to relax into a parasympathetic state of rest and digest. It gives our connective tissue and fascia time to release. And it gives our mind time to drop into the space between the breaths, where pure consciousness resides.
Once in the yin yoga pose, bring your attention to the breath. Slow the breath down and drop into the space between the inhale and the exhale and the exhale and the inhale. That’s the place where we drop into our true nature — love. “I am loving awareness” a mantra shared by Ram Dass, helps us remember our true nature. When our mind is quiet, when we drop into the space between the breaths, no thoughts arise. Just loving awareness. Yin Yoga is a meditation of loving awareness, surrender and acceptance.
It’s our human nature to take on stress. It takes time to shed layers of tension. We hold onto events, and we store their imprints in our bodies. Most of the time we are unaware that we are tensing our muscles. Tension becomes the norm. As we stay in these long held postures we shed tension much like a snake sheds its skin. We let it slough off and let go of what no longer serves us. And when we let go of what no longer serves us we make room for what does.
Yin yoga gives us the time to allow our bodies to release and let go. Deep change happens on a physical and emotional level. In that way, Yin yoga is grounding and centering. With grounding and centering comes peace and quiet. When our mind and bodies relax, we access our true self. Our false ego falls away and we soften into who we really are.
As translated by Nischala Joy Devi, The Secret Power of Yoga, Patanjali writes in Sutras 1.2 and 1.3 that, “Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart. United in the heart, consciousness is steadied, then we abide in our true nature — joy.” That is, it’s our nature to be distracted by thought after thought. When we move quickly from action to action, our mind moves quickly too. Often we are doing one thing and thinking about something else. Our culture demands us to go, go, go. Our culture often associates rest and stillness with laziness and uselessness. But we have to slow down and cultivate awareness of our true self to experience life fully in each moment. To live from a place of love, to live from our hearts.
Practicing Yin Yoga steers us in the direction of ease and stillness. The more we experience a quiet mind, practice acceptance and surrender to what is, the more we live in a place of loving awareness and joy. As more and more of us find a sense of peace and authenticity, and live from our hearts, our culture will transition to one of truth, consciousness and love.
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Photo by Shanna Gillette, SYF2016.