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Yin Yoga is More Than Stillness... Way More

For many folks yoga is used as a form of physical fitness which is hyper-focused on the physical exterior of our body. If that works for you, PRAISE. I have no desire to tell you what is good for you. I sought and found yoga as part of a fitness program for quite a long time before I decided to take my yoga journey deeper. You own the power of your journey now and forever.


Now I want to challenge you. What types of fears or emotions bubble up when you think about slowing things down? When you contemplate on the idea of sitting with your own body and mind in stillness for a few minutes at a time? Can you sense a visceral reaction to even these words? Have you thought to ask yourself why and really try and understand? Interesting... right?



The Internal Work

Yin Yoga has a physical component to it, but it is way more than just physical, it is a practice that allows you to pause and to get to know yourself better internally. This kind of introspection doesn't always present itself in a high-energy physical yoga flow style practice. In fact, sometimes these type of high energy practices can be utilized as a numbing device or an escape from the "real world". This is why I suggest adding a Yin Yoga practice to your high-energy flows or other rigorous workout plans, not replacing them. This is all about creating balance in your life, because there is a time and place for everything, including extreme high energy workouts and also slow and quiet movement and reflection. We cannot get in touch with our center or find our balance without exploring the edges of our extremes (yes, sitting in stillness is also an extreme).


Some people may think Yin Yoga is too passive, easy, or boring. On the contrary, there are elements of working through your mental and emotional body which can really push you to your limits, and can even be quite exhausting. This type of exhaustion slowly becomes less intense over time. Just like our physical muscles, the more we flex our mental and emotional body, the stronger and more resilient it becomes. I want to be clear on this though, this type of work never becomes "easy". It takes work every time.


Build Resilience with Yin Yoga


Stress

Most of us deal with stress daily. Stress was essential to our survival as a species, since it is a byproduct of our fight/flight/freeze mode to protect us when we are in danger. Today, we don't require stress for survival like we did in pre-historic times, however we still experience chronic levels of stress in our daily lives. Our once necessary stress response is not equipped for how we live in modern society. Three ways we face stress according to Ronald D. Siegel, Harvard Clinical Professor of Psychology:

  • Resistance to inevitable change

  • Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain

  • Wishing things were different than the way they are

Mindfulness

A mindfulness practice presents different options on how to have a relationship with stress. And why am I talking about mindfulness? Yin Yoga also has a mindfulness component to it. When we are sitting in stillness in our Yin Yoga practice, we might observe many different thoughts, feelings, and sensations such as:

  • Thoughts about the past

  • Thoughts of the future

  • Boredom

  • Agitation

  • Discomfort

  • Pain

  • Joy about mindfulness or being able to focus

  • Feeling frustration if our mindfulness practice is not focused

  • An impulse to get up and leave the practice

These are all normal. As we practice mindfulness, we can learn to observe these experiences as they come and go. We can also learn to witness our automatic reactions to them. As we are watching these reactions, we can also observe what happens when we explore different options for how to respond to these experiences that come up. For example, we can notice what happens when we choose to stay with a difficult sensation, such as impatience, when we are feeling quite uncomfortable holding a hip opener for two minutes.


Resilience

Resilience is defined in in this context as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, and stress. Adapting well also means having the capacity to handle adversities gracefully. You can also think of resilience here as how much you get aroused when faced with stress and how fast you can bounce back and recover from stress or setbacks. Mindfulness meditation during our Yin Yoga practice enables us to be more resilient during times of adversity.


Acceptance

Acceptance of what we can't change is the way to heal. Yin Yoga is one of the embodied practices that is very powerful and that can help us to gain the capacity to allow and accept things as they are.


I want to be very clear about this. Acceptance isn't a passive act. It is not glossing over an issue and saying "EVERYTHING IS FINE" while fire burns around you. I would argue acceptance is a radical action of facing what's in front of you head on, which means acknowledging and facing pain or difficult emotions and/or situations instead of ignoring or turning away from them. With acceptance, we learn more about our internalized and/or subconscious thoughts, behaviors, and actions so we may consciously change behavior in the future. This takes a lot of energy and can be really uncomfortable, but this is the internal work that must be done for transformational change, growth, and resilience.



Commit To Yourself

We are human, and we will continue to be human whether you've gone to 1 Yin Yoga classes or 100. There is no end goal of spiritual awakening or enlightenment (although if you do find that, HALLELUJAH). This type of practice takes time, work, dedication, and commitment. It is all about the path, the journey, the experience. And it is so so worth it to have a chance to get to know yourself a little better each time you show up to your mat. Each practice is a loving commitment to yourself and your own personal journey towards healing and growth.



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