As mentioned before one of the main focus of my weekend retreat was to learn a new form of relaxation and meditation known as Yin Yoga.
I’d like to share what I learned and the poses associated as I begin a 30 day reflective yoga practice. I hope you find you can take some benefit from this sharing of knowledge. Regardless of what your belief system is I think a healthy mind and body is important and whether you agree or believe the concept of energy, or chi, the poses are still a great way to increase flexibility, sensitivity, and longevity. We are all on a continual pursuit to better our minds and bodies and I hope you find this to be a new opportunity to walk together towards that goal.
So what is Yin Yoga?
Unlike other forms of yoga, yin yoga emphasizes four things. 1) Holding poses for a longer duration of time 2) A deeper form of relaxation with less stress on the muscles and more focus on flexibility 3) A more meditative nature with slow, purposeful movements to create inner peace and silence and 4) A purposeful objective to stimulate or inhibit certain emotions, mentalities, energies, and/or physical characteristics.
How does Yin Yoga aim to do these things? How does one practice Yin Yoga?
The poses, or asanas, in Yin Yoga are much more relaxed and the movements from each are much slower and more meditative. There is less strain on the muscles as we work on slowly increasing flexibility and reaching and then slowly surpassing mental and physical ‘gates’ or limitations. With less physical exertion you are able to hold the poses longer, which allows for more gradual and consistent growth and improvement and also, as your mind is not so preoccupied with strain and exercise per se, you are able to spend more time in a meditative and reflective state. So the key in Yin Yoga is to understand that you are not supposed to be at 100% of your exertion as you will easily and quickly burn out before the end. Stay at a comfortable but consistent 80% and pay attention to your body and mind. Feel your body gradually begin to open up to the pose and sink even deeper than if you had exerted yourself outright. Pay attention to the calm of the mind and make no judgements as thoughts enter and then leave. Let them go as you focus on silence and peace. Use any necessary props to adjust poses to be more comfortable and to be able to hold them for longer. Props are not signs of weakness or inability. They are tools to help you attain your goals and hopefully one day you will find you will need them less and less, if at all. Again, no judgements.
Another aspect of Yin Yoga is how it can target specific body parts for specific purposes, whether mental or physical. You can pick and choose based on your needs each day on what you will want to improve and as you are in your pose, focus on stimulating that particular body part to induce that specific effect.
Today we will discuss the Kidney (Yin) and Bladder (Yang) Meridians of the body.
The Kidney is considered the ‘Root of Life’ because it houses the force that we are given at birth, chi. In Chinese medicine the kidney system also includes the ‘external kidneys’ (testicles in men and ovaries in women). The ‘external kidneys’ are important for sexual vitality and reproductive health. Kidneys are the seat of power, courage, and willfulness. When the kidney chi is full, we are centered, fearless, rational, and clear headed. We are gentle and understanding, filled with compassion for ourselves and others. But when the kidney chi is lacking, there is fear (possibly explaining why when we are frightened there is a tendency to urinate), paranoia, anxiety, jealousy, suspicion, and a loose morality.
Physical symptoms of a weak kidney chi are dark circles under the eyes, imbalanced hormones, genital and sexual disorders such as poor libido, impotence, and weak limbs.
While the kidney is considered the ‘Root of Life’ as it houses all of our essential energy, the bladder is called the ‘Minister of the Resevoir’ as it serves as the gatekeeper, keeping essential energy from the kidney in and filtering out bad energy to leave the body in the form of waste. Stress and tension play a key part when bladder chi is weak. Signs of problems with the bladder are backaches, headaches, and pain in the lower limbs. This is negative chi being housed and unable to leave, so staying and festering within the body.
These poses in Yin Yoga are meant specifically to stimulate the kidney and bladder. Hold each as comfortably as you can, starting with one minute each and gradually over time increasing to around five minutes each.
Sphinx Pose: Unlike in other forms of yoga, in Yin Yoga the legs are completely relaxed in the Sphinx pose and there is a natural, comfortable arch in the back from being completely held up by the arms alone.
Saddle Pose: This pose stretches the feet, ankles, thighs, and arches the lumbar. Start by sitting on the top part of your foot and feel the stretch. If it’s okay, sit fully back and feel the stretch in your thighs. If still comfortable, go ahead and lean fully back and either support yourself on your hands or go fully back to your elbows.
Butterfly Pose: A nice, relaxing way to stretch the back. From seated position, bring the feet together and lean forward, careful not to bend the spine but to stray straight and bend from the waist, stretching the back forward. Hands at feet in the beginning but when possible walk them further out, with the goal of being flat on the floor with head between your legs.
Dragonfly Pose: From the top resembles a dragonfly with its long body and two sets of wings represented by the arms and legs. From a seated position spread your legs out to your sides and fall forward. Spread your arms out as much as you can and try to lean forward and lie flat. If needed, prop either your hips up to help the legs or your elbows up to help your arms.
Caterpillar Pose: With both legs out in front of you, fold forward and now allow the back to round. Try to hold the legs to stretch forward or, if it is too much, use a prop to sit on and elevate your hips.
Reclining Twist Pose: Start by lying on your back. Roll to your right side and keep your right leg straight in line with you. Take the left leg and raise your thigh perpendicular to your spine and place it over your right leg. Your left arm will extend straight to your left side, twisting the body. Do this on both sides. Modified version as shown where both legs are thighs perpendicular to spine.
Corpse Pose: Lie flat on your back, with legs slightly apart, arms at your side, with palms up and fingers spread. Use this time to relax, focus on breath, and take a mental inventory of your body and mind. Reflect on any sensations that came up during yoga. What body parts responded well, what rebelled. What emotions are you stirring up in this long and mindful practice. Make no judgements. Allow everything to be.
Well that’s it! Part 1 of sharing my Yin Yoga experiences with everyone. I hope you enjoyed the read and hope you can try it out. If you do I would love to know how you felt and if you noticed any changes or sensations.
Man: 37 Loneliness: 16