March 13, 2015

How I Knew it was Time to Revive my Yin Yoga Practice.

Yin Yoga

I’m lying on a massage table in her office—the energy healer standing over me—only because I won a raffle.

I’m starting to think it’s all a marketing ploy; no doubt every patron of my health food store who entered the drawing “won.” Still, here on the massage table with her fingers firmly kneading the back of my neck, I notice these things: the time between each of my inhalations begins to lengthen, my exhalations feel easier, and my low belly is beginning to soften. I might even be climbing up that impossible mountain of trust that seems to separate me from alternative health care workers (at least over the past two years), but then she tells me, “I’m not even moving my fingers; it’s your own energy moving them.”

Right, I think. This is a gimmick; she’s a hack.

Into my wary thoughts, however, she whispers her verdict: “You, my friend, are being dominated by masculine energy.” And even as my analytical brain attempts to dissect her words, I receive a message (not likely her message—but still, a message): It’s time to renew my Yin Yoga practice. It’s been waiting patiently for me—all crumpled in the corner and unused—where I left it about 18 months earlier during a crisis of faith. I had not lost faith in God, but rather, faith in my body to heal itself.

From my past yoga training, I know this: masculine—yang—energy is associated with analytical thought, with giving, and with all things light and visible. Dark and often hidden, feminine, or yin, energy is associated with intuition, creativity, and receiving. The flowing, heated, muscular yoga practice I tend to favor is considered very yang. Yin Yoga, by contrast, targets the body’s deep connective tissue and is ideally practiced in a cool, dimly lit, setting. With low-to-the-ground postures that are held for at least five minutes each, Yin Yoga allows the release of deep connective tissue and, often times, hidden emotions too.

Today, seeking my intuitive side, I rise with the early morning’s darkness and pad barefoot across my worn carpet. I place my bolster on the yoga mat that I leave spread out in the spare bedroom. Once seated in front of the bolster, I allow both knees to fall to the left. The bottom of my left foot, still warm from being in bed, cups the top of my right knee. I consciously inhale and then exhale slowly as I twist my upper torso to the left while my rib cage opens over the bolster. Palms placed on either side of the bolster help me ease my abdomen down to the bolster as I rotate my neck so that my right cheek lies on the bolster. When my neck glitters with pain, I turn my head back so that it points in the same direction as my knees. With this minor adjustment, I observe a tightly controlled exhale transition into a sigh of ease.

Yin Yoga asks you to respect your body while practicing; it asks that you receive only what your body can comfortably give, rather than pushing beyond an invisible edge and going from discomfort to pain.

Here in the quiet morning, I wait patiently in this reclining twist for what my body wants to give. Although my spine feels the pressure of the twist, I remain in the posture because I am aware that I have not pushed myself beyond the edge of what can be managed with an easy breath. With surrender, I quietly watch all that bubbles to my surface.

One breath to the next, I receive what comes and, in return, I give my body a tentative offering of trust; she will heal herself, in time.


Author: Heidi Fettig Parton 

Editor: Caroline Beaton

Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Camp

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