Psychological Benefits

Within Yin Yoga it is important to feel and powerful
sensations may arise psychologically, emotionally, energetically and/or
physically because it is in these deep layers of connective tissue that we
store our body memories.

We live in a society that is increasingly high paced and a
yang perspective predominates. From a young age emphasis is placed upon doing
more, striving to meet expectations, achievement and improved circumstances. In
this way the yin side of our nature: the receptive acceptance that patiently
allows things to unfold in their own time frame can remain dormant and underdeveloped.
If we live in a world of unsatisfied demands underpinned by expectations to
always be further on than we are, we can feel very uncomfortable in our own
skin. In order to feel true happiness we need to balance both the yin and the
yang forces within ourselves. The yin qualities of deep acceptance grounded in
right view instil an awareness of and gratitude for the miracles around and
within us. We clearly see how far we have come, of what has brought us here to
this present moment.  The long postural
steadiness can facilitate development of the yin qualities of surrender,
receptivity, acceptance, observance, patience, tolerance and love as we deeply
nourish our meridians, our minds, our bodies in active rest and recovery. From
this compassionate foundation the yang qualities of determination, courage,
positive movement and progress can ensue with much greater force and
efficiency. It is akin to enjoying the beautiful view as pause for sustenance
on our journey to the summit of a great mountain. Often we are lost in powerless
effort, constantly doing, caught in a world of forgetfulness. When we allow
ourselves to simply be, in this body, in this shape, in this moment of time, we
can more clearly perceive what is happening and the best way to proceed. We
re-group. We gather our forces and notice opportunities we may miss if we do
not get off our self-perpetuated treadmills.
We pause, we breathe, we wait. We become aware of the busyness of our
minds, of our attachment to mental formations, of the storylines our minds
create. Deeply anchored in the body in a posture we create a distance from our
thoughts. We realise we are not our thoughts and are vastly more than them. And
in this space we dis-engage. We dis-engage our physical and our mental muscles.
We allow the thoughts to come and go without identifying with them, empowering
us to take care of ourselves in a different much more loving way. We cultivate
the ability to concentrate, to focus our attention: on the breath, on the body,
on our mind chatter with discernment and separation. We nourish the silent
observer, the unchanging mirror that reflects without judgement or clinging all
that arises within and around us.

For those who have never experienced Yin fully it can seem
very easy but the practice differs from a restorative practice. Yin Yoga is
deceptively challenging especially when holding particular postures for the
full duration without unconsciously fidgeting or deliberately adjusting the
body. The more we practice the more we become aware of our desire to stay in
those postures that elicit pleasure: those we love, those we feel we are good
at etc. within which time and space can cease to exist. It is as if we melt
into the shape, all divisions of mind-body, self-other evaporate. We become one
with mind and body. In stark contrast, in more challenging postures, we become
conscious of our aversion as we are suspended in a place where time seems to
slowly and excruciatingly draw out into infinity. The remaining two minutes of
these positions can then become beautiful training ground for our minds.  We can learn to train the mind to stay where
we put it. Within the safe containers of posture and class, we can notice how
we relate to ourselves when we are struggling, experiencing conflict and
desiring to do anything else but stay with the sensations that are unfolding
within us. We can become conscious of what we say to ourselves in these moments
and much more importantly the tone with which we do so. We can learn we are
capable of remaining still irrespective of what arises in our minds and bodies.
In this way we can begin to soften our edges, our muscles, our inner voice and
we build up a greater sense of confidence, self-love, self-mastery, as we empower
ourselves to develop more inner resources and coping strategies that can be
extended into our lives outside of class.

Breath Body

The breath is an exceptionally powerful tool in this
practice: as bridge, anchor, barometer and director. We breathe approximately
23,000 times a day but how many breaths do we take with conscious awareness? We
can bring our conscious awareness to the breath to bring our minds and bodies back
together. We can anchor our awareness on to our breathing particularly if we
are struggling to stay in the postural experience we are in. We can direct our
breath into the belly further stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system
and the corresponding relaxation response. We can breathe into areas of
discomfort or into certain organs or chakras, actively and deliberately
affecting the pranic flow within our bodies. We can use this life-giving
resource to let us know how skilfully we are practicing in each moment. We
become familiar with our natural breath rhythm allowing it to remain soft and
gentle.  When our breath trails off it
may indicate we have not moved into the pose deeply enough and may highlight
our tendency to hold ourselves back.  In
this way we learn to work with ourselves to observe and regulate the
appropriate depth of sensation that we can tolerate in a given time. Other
times we may notice our breath becomes more forceful, more strained. In this
instance the breath illustrates we have gone into the posture with too much
intensity too soon. In this case it is certainly appropriate to lessen the
intensity of the pose. When we initially suggest the shape to the body it
exhibits resistance. After 30-60s the body and the muscles begin to relax and
greater depth may be possible but not necessarily. Prematurely entering into
the posture with too much intensity can greater further energetic imbalances.
So, the breath body can highlight any tendencies to aggressively push ourselves
succumbing to the over-striving demands of the ego, the anti-thesis of yoga. We
become aware and adjust accordingly. Working with the breath in this way can be
incredibly affirming and empowering. It can enable us to directly experience the
fact that we each contain all the inner resources we need to be able to sit
with whatever arises with grace dignity and the light of awareness.

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