Yin yoga has been a great blessing in my life. When I first began practicing yin I wasn't at all prepared for the quiet, stillness, and drama that ensued inside my head. I was coming from a very active Ashtanga Vinyasa practice and had been in a place of push thru it, keep going until you get that arm balance, more hang time in handstand, just one more chataranga. All that intensity and pushing began to break my body down, as well as my spirit. Yoga had become to competitive, no longer about the practice simply being a practice or your practice. Of course this was partly my fault as I had forgotten the true essence of my practice and what my first teacher Kali Ray had imparted upon me. I also got caught in the competitive motion of things. The teachings and practices became all about how many chatarangas can be turned out in 90 minutes, who has the most amazing arm balances, handstands, and who is who in the fancy yoga pose world. We all know yoga is not a competition, but that was exactly what it had become at this time. The emerging of the rock star yogi 's had hit the scene. Things became flashy, showy, with way to much fan fare around what the teacher was wearing and what fancy pose they were going to do. With all this my body began to breakdown, a feeling of being contracted, less flexible, and always very sore. My practice no longer nurtured me, softened me, allowed me to let down my protective armor that I was trying desperately to let go of. However I didnt see it until I began to practice yin. My first exposure to yin was back in 2006 when I happened upon a class while practicing in LA. I found myself in a random class having no idea what was about to happen and honestly not knowing anything about yin. Well, it blew my lid off! I was more challenged than ever before, more challenged than any active practice had offered me. That first experience shook the very core of my being. The teacher spoke just a little bit about the shapes, offering some variety within the same primary shape according to your body and then set a timer and left us in silence for majority of the time. He would interject with little cues and suggestions while holding. And once the bell would go off we would slowly find our way out of the shape and into another. Sometimes with a little movement in between and other times we would move right on to the next shape. All the while my body sinking deeper and deeper into places I had never felt before. My mind on the other hand was freaking out from the stillness, and the time seemed to go on forever. I remember wondering if the timer was broken and wanting so badly to get out of the shape. I was resisting, restless, impatient, moving between tension and release. As soon as I felt some release I had fear flood my body and mind and would pull back again, resisting the sweetness that the earth was right there to catch me. Over time I slowly learned the art of surrender in both my body and mind. I released my strong hold on life and allowed myself to sink deeper than ever before. My mind melted into spaciousness wandering from breath to sensations to soft sounds floating around. I became present to just being, my body let go of long held tensions, and I felt more space in all areas of body, mind, and heart. I truly allowed gravity to move thru my being, pulling me closer to the earth so I could be held in the loving arms of our greatest mother. I melted, I cried, I surrended myself!
The practice of yin is both challenging and liberating. It takes us out of our hectic lives and gives us time to slow down, release, to pause rather than push. A beautiful practice that reminds you to come home to yourself...your inner self!
Today my practice is very different. I no longer push myself beyond what my breath body is allowing in Vinyasa. I play my edges safely and let my breath body tell me where we are going. I am no longer interested in what fancy shapes I can make with my body. If I naturally find my way into them through the progression of my practice then I play, if I feel heavy or resistent I pause and find my way into a long hold to investigate the resistence. Is it my body, mind, or breath resisting? And what am I resisting? I have been fortunate to have studied with many great teachers Paulie Zink. Paul Grilley, Denise Kaufman, Sara Powers, and many more that have gifted me with guidance and support through my yin process. I highly recommend giving Yin a try. If you are looking to study yin, seek out the greats, the original yinsters I mentioned above. Paul Grilley and Denise Kaufman are my two faves as they both offer the space and quiet to truly unfold.
Here are 2 great articles on Yin!
Now go give your body and mind the gift of a quiet yin practice...love yourself, release yourself, and just be!