Meditation. I know it’s good for me, but sometimes my body and mind refuse to cooperate.
The wild horses in my mind gallop and stomp all over the place while my body begins its own restless little dance as I try and sit still. An itch here, a numbness there, followed by overall twitchiness. It feels like my mind and body are siblings in a never-ending rivalry.
So what to do with these quarreling children of our selves?
For me, it’s yin yoga.
One of the best kept secrets of yin yoga is that it’s really meditation that you do three minutes at a time. Yup. That’s it. Three minutes at a time (or five minutes if you are cranky and tight that day).
Yin yoga is pretty new to the yoga scene. You won’t find it mentioned by Patanjali, but the practice of Yin really does ask us to keep the postures steady and comfortable as suggested in Sutra 2:46.
In 2002, Paul Grilley brought Yin’s message to the yoga community in his book, Yin Yoga: Outline of A Quiet Practice:
“It is not muscular strength that gives us the feeling of ease and lightness in the body, it is the flexibility of the joints, of the connective tissue.”
Yin does this with quiet but powerful poses.
Yin asks us to let our body rest and release in the posture, to gently stretch the connective tissue that forms our joints, to let the tendons and ligaments find their original range of motion that has been constricted by our benign neglect.
The body loves it and responds deeply to the stimulation and movement of energy through the joints, to the gentle massage that holding a posture brings to the inner organs.
What no one talks about is that the busy mind has nowhere to go when we settle in for the three minutes of butterfly pose. And the mind really, really complains. It starts giving you all the reasons why you should be doing the grocery shopping or at least some hot yoga instead of this lame practice of sitting and holding. It natters on for about three poses.
Then something quite wonderful happens. It gives up. The mind settles down. It softly releases its incessant voice with an almost audible sigh. It decides to go with the flow. It stretches and releases. Just like your connective tissue, joints and tendons are doing. The thoughts that show up are kinder, softer and less demanding. They also don’t stay long. They meander on into nothingness, leaving you deeper in the pose.
And it feels wonderful. Almost with no effort you find a place within you that is peaceful and relaxed. Your low back feels warm and open, your hips are loose and your face has let go of its habitual tension. You might even have a soft smile on your face. You find yourself being friendly toward your body and appreciating its movement, restrictions and needs.
This is what yoga wants for you. Union between the body and the mind so you can open to the wonder of being released from stress.
That’s why I love to teach yin yoga. Within the quiet power of a yin practice we meet ourselves fully on the mat as we take time to delve deeply into a posture and listen to what comes up within our emotional world.
When we meet ourselves this way, we see what’s really going on inside us. We have time to appreciate the goodness within us, that which we too often deny because we are busy yelling at our inner selves.
We actually hear our self-talk. And hearing it we may decide to change it, to bring kindness and compassion to our own beautiful selves, to appreciate and honor our human life with all its eccentricities. To befriend who we are.
That is the hidden secret of yin yoga. Meditation.
The whole time you were “doing yin yoga” you were actually meditating, gently moving inward physically and mentally. You were allowing space for stillness. You were totally present.
You were at peace.
Try yin yoga. You just might find yourself.
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Assist Ed: Michelle Margaret/Ed: Sara Crolick