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Lets go DEEP: Waves and the substance from which they arise are one and the same 🙏🏾

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Svadhyaya

That mystery niyama? It’s svadhyaya—“self-study,” although the translation is a bit awkward. This Sanskrit word, like many, has a richer history than can easily be captured in one or two English words. Even within the Yoga Sutra (the bible of yoga, so to speak) the term svadhyaya picks up increasingly richer meaning as it winds its way through the first two chapters.

To translate svadhyaya as “self-study” is, on the surface of things, quite precise. The first part of the word—sva—means “self.” The second part—dhyaya—is derived from the verb root dhyai, which means “to contemplate, to think on, to recollect, or to call to mind.” Thus, it works to translate dhyaya as “study”—to study one’s own self.

But we Westerners carry some baggage along with the concept of self-study. In the West, the study of one’s self is psychoanalysis and this is not what yogis had in mind. Analysis of our thoughts, feelings, associations, and fantasies is not what svadhyaya is about. To get at that, we need to approach our subject from a different angle.

The Nature of the Self

Svadhyaya reveals itself in the traditional yoga teaching image of the ocean and its waves. Here, each wave, traveling across the surface of the sea, is likened to an individual being. It is distinguished by its location in space, as well as by other qualities, such as shape and color.

But the substance of every wave is the sea itself. Waves and the substance from which they arise are one and the same. And since individual waves are part of the sea, as they appear and disappear, they neither increase nor decrease the immensity of water in which they have their being. A wave is never other than the ocean—though it has its individual identity so long as it is manifested on the ocean’s surface.

The premise of svadhyaya is similar. Like the waves of the sea, it is said that individual awareness is never separate from the infinite consciousness in which it has its being. Individual minds have distinctive qualities, preferences, and colorings, but they are not entirely autonomous. Each mind is a wave in a vast expanse of consciousness.

Individual minds have distinctive qualities, preferences, and colorings, but they are not entirely autonomous.

The aim of svadhyaya is to bring the experience of that immense Consciousness, the Self, to awareness (these words are capitalized here to set them apart from ordinary consciousness and self-identity). Just as we might theorize that one day a wave could discover its watery nature, so a human being may discover the deep Consciousness that is the substance of individual awareness. It is this process of Self-discovery that is the essence of svadhyaya.

But to say that Consciousness may be brought to awareness, or “known,” does not mean the Self is an object, like a book or a piece of fruit. We can never claim to have stumbled upon the Self like we would a piece of loose change in a parking lot. Just as a wave cannot be the possessor of the ocean, the Self cannot be possessed by individual awareness.

Instead the Self must be experienced as the deep basis of individual awareness, and this is possible only when the mind can grasp its own underlying nature (sva) through yogic means. Broadly speaking, we could say that all yoga leads to svadhyaya, but certain specific methods are more closely associated with it. The sages tell us that we are the Self and that to “study” it is to gradually know it. The specific techniques for gaining this kind of experiential knowledge are collectively called svadhyaya.

Western Counterparts

The concept of svadhyaya is not limited to the East. In every age and place, East and West, poets, mystics, and philosophers have explored its ramifications. Shakespeare opens Sonnet 53 with these intriguing lines:

What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
Since every one hath, every one, one shade,
And you, but one, can every shadow lend.

If we interpret the words shadow and shade to mean individual human souls, then Shakespeare is portraying us all as strange shadows—shades who only darkly reveal the light dwelling within us. To paraphrase Shakespeare, then, we might ask, what is the substance in which every individual soul has its existence? As we have seen, this is svadhyaya’s essential question.

Walt Whitman, in Leaves of Grass, also illumines the concept of svadhyaya, but with a different kind of imagery. Whitman speaks in the first person, and in a voice that bridges the finite and infinite. Here are some lines from “Song of Myself”:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. . . .

Myself moving forward then and now and forever,
Gathering and showing more always and with velocity,
Infinite and omnigenous. . . .

I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth,
I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and fathomless as myself,
(They do not know how immortal, but I know.)

In his characteristic style and with unguarded innocence, Whitman proclaims here that his is a soul whose compass is universal. He speaks of himself as if he were both wave and sea—simultaneously embracing both. This is the vision of svadhyaya.

Inner Repetition

How can such a vision be part of our daily practice? An alternative translation of the word svadhyaya tells us that the word means “reciting, repeating, or rehearsing to one’s self.” Thus, svadhyaya consists of repeatedly impressing on the mind the idea of infinite Consciousness and returning again and again to an intuitive vision of it. This is accomplished through contemplative recitations (usually taken from sacred texts) and meditation on a mantra (mantra japa). It yields an increasingly transparent vision of the Self.

When the mind is transparent, when it is not distracted by competing thoughts or disturbed by likes and dislikes, it does not conceal the Self. At such times it is said to be sattvic—filled with sattva (the principle of clarity and even-mindedness). This state is the aim of svadhyaya for it allows the experience of Self-awareness to permeate the mind.

But if the mind obscures the Self, the mind is dark and insensitive to its underlying nature, and there can be little Self-knowledge. At such times it is said to be filled with tamas (the principle of obscuration). At other times, when the mind is distracted by desires and mundane involvements, it is said to be dominated byrajas (the principle of activity). Rajasic elements of mind need to be disciplined in order to acquire a taste for quietness, but when the mind is tamasic we need preparatory practice, drawing from the complete range of yoga disciplines, to prepare the way for svadhyaya.

{The Practice of Svadhyaya}

Look for inspirational scriptures, readings, poems, or lectures delivered by those who seem to have acquired inner knowledge.

 

Use these resources for contemplation of the Self.

 

Begin the practice of mantra japa—repetition of a mantra in meditation.

 

Rest in the mantra for 10–20 minutes each morning or evening (or both).

 

Let the silent witness, the indwelling consciousness in you, gradually awaken.

Contemplative Recitations

Over three millennia ago, poets of the Vedic age spoke of the Self as the One dwelling in the many, calling it the Purusha (the cosmic person), and described it as a being with “countless heads, countless eyes, and countless feet.” One of their hymns, the Purusha Sukta (the hymn devoted to the cosmic person), is one of the foremost sacred texts in the svadhyaya tradition. The first three verses, which follow, may be used for daily contemplation.

Om. With countless heads, countless eyes, countless feet,
Moving, yet the ground of all,
The Cosmic Person is beyond the reach of the senses.

He is all this, all that has been, and all that is to be.
He is the Lord of immortality, who expands Himself as food.
Such is His glory, and yet the Cosmic Person is more.

One part of Him is creation,
And three parts swell beyond as His boundless light.

This hymn speaks of the Self as the one among many who sees through the uncounted eyes of created beings; who is unlimited by time or space; who is the essence of the process of life-maintenance; and yet whose nature is only partially taken up by all this. Contemplating on such a presence—thinking and behaving as if it exists, and seeking to know it, though it is not seen or heard through the senses—is the first stage in svadhyaya.

Mantra Meditation

It is in mantra meditation that svadhyaya—silent, inner recitation—bears its fullest fruit. Repeating a mantra anchors the mind to one thought—a sound pregnant with the presence of the Self. Vyasa, the great commentator on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, confirms this in his commentary on sutra 2:2. There he says that svadhyaya means the repetition of purifying mantras. And in his commentary on sutra 1:25 he notes that there is a science of such mantras, “a particular knowledge of His name.” This knowledge lies at the heart of svadhyaya.

According to this tradition, mantras are given to students for protection and guidance. They are recited in the mind. But paradoxically, they are the source of inner silence, for when a mantra permeates the mind, it draws awareness in while the outward-going aspects of the mind become silent. Real silence in meditation is not the mind emptied of sound. It is the mysterious experience of the mind filled with the sound of a mantra.

When a mantra permeates the mind, it draws awareness in while the outward-going aspects of the mind become silent.

After first learning to observe the breath in the nostrils, beginning students are usually given the mantra soham (pronounced so with the inhalation and hum with the exhalation). This starts the process of quieting the mind and awakening the inner witness, for soham means, “that…I am; the Self…I am.” Repeating soham is the first step in acquiring direct, intuitive knowledge of the Self. Thus it is in daily meditation that the practice of svadhyaya comes to fulfillment.

A Final Thought

In his own intimate way, Walt Whitman places a few final elements of svadhyaya before us for contemplation. Again, in “Song of Myself,” he avows that the Self is not running away, not struggling to keep the truth from us, not unresponsive to our efforts at Self-knowledge. Instead, he tells us that knowing the Self is the consummation of a search requiring patient and repeated effort. And most touchingly, as is the case with so many other revelations of being, he reports that the Self is nearby and filled with grace. In Whitman’s words:

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

 

Words and thoughts from our friends at Yoga International.

Your life becomes a Masterpiece when you learn to Master Peace ☮️

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Santosha: Contentment

In nearly every translation of Yoga Sutra II.42, santosha is interpreted as the greatest happiness, the underlying joy that cannot be shaken by life’s tough moments, by injustice, hardship, bad luck. “Contentment is really about accepting life as it is,” says Bell. “It’s not about creating perfection. Life will throw whatever it wants at you, and you ultimately have little control. Be welcoming of what you get.”

You can practice this on the mat quite easily, by acknowledging your tendency to strive to do a perfect pose and accepting the one you’ve got. “There’s no guarantee that you’ll get enlightened when you do a backbend with straight arms, or touch your hands to the floor in Uttanasana,” says Bell. “The process of santosha is relaxing into where you are in your pose right now and realizing that it is perfect.” Lasater compares santosha to the deep relaxation possible in Savasana (Corpse Pose). “You can’t run after contentment,” Lasater says. “It has to find you. All you can do is try to create the space for it.”

If you release your mind from constantly wanting your situation to be different, you’ll find more ease. “It’s not fatalism; it’s not to say you can’t change your reality,” says Cope. “But just for the moment, can you let go of the war with reality? If you do, you’ll be able to think more clearly and be more effective in making a difference.”

During those times when you don’t feel content, just act for one moment as if you were. You might kick-start a positive feedback loop, which can generate real contentment. It might feel absurd when your inner landscape isn’t shiny and bright, but the simple physical act of turning up the corners of your mouth can have amazing effects. “Smile,” suggests Devi. “It changes everything. Practicing smiling is like planting the seed of a mighty redwood. The body receives the smile, and contentment grows. Before you know it, you’re smiling all the time.” Whether you’re practicing asana or living life, remember to find joy in the experience.

 

Words via Our friends @ yogajournal.com

#justdoitanyway; Aparigraha /// non-attachment or non-greed 🙌🌟➔

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This weeks offering is from the lovely @emmanewlynyoga again- she breaks down aparigraha into understandable tid-bits for you to ponder…..

Aparigraha is the last of the five yamas of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. It often translates to ‘non-greed’, ‘non-possessiveness’, and ‘non-attachment’.

What does this yama teach us and how do we translate this on and off our mats?

The yamas are essentially moral guidelines by which to live with regard to our relationship with ourselves, and the world around us. These moral codes can be applied both on an off the yoga mat, helping us to practise not just for the benefit of ourselves, but for the world around us….

Patanjali’s yamas are:

Last but by no means least is Aparigraha, which often translates as ‘non-greed’, ‘non-possessiveness’, and ‘non-attachment’. The word ‘graha’ means to take, to seize, or to grab, ‘pari’ means ‘on all sides’, and the prefix ‘a’ negates the word itself  – basically, it means ‘non’. This important yama teaches us to take only what we need, keep only what serves us in the moment, and to let go when the time is right.

Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of your action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction – Krishna

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey…..

Aparigraha is actually one of the central teachings in the Yogic text the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna shares one of the teachings that could perhaps be the most important lesson of all to learn: ‘Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction’. What Krishna is essentially saying here, is that we should never concern ourselves with the outcome of a situation, we should only concern ourselves with what we’re actually doing right now as we work towards that outcome.

For example – how often do we worry about what might come of the effort we put into a project at work, a holiday we’re planning, or a meal we’re preparing, that we never really enjoy the work itself? So often we worry if we’ll be successful enough, or ‘good enough’ when we put our hearts on the line to show the world what we’re made of, that we forget why we started in the first place.

Go for it!

If you know you have something to do and share with the world, this teaching from the Bhagavad Gita tells us to do it – and to do it with all our hearts – and to let go of what might come of it. Great poets like Henry David Thoreu and Walt Whitman, painters like Camille Corot, and even composers like Beethoven couldn’t be sure of what would come of their work. Many were considered unworthy of recognition when they first showed the world their creations, but when they let go of the need to be praised by other people – when they let go of feeling as though their happiness was determined by what other people thought, and they just worked for the love of it – they allowed their passions to come alive, and lived fulfilled and abundant lives. When we understand and can fully comprehend how to live in this way, it’s a bit like taking a huge sigh of relief….

Here, we’ll discuss how we can all cultivate a little more ‘non-attachment’, ‘non-greed’ and ‘non possessiveness’ in our lives….

Aparigraha on the mat:

We may all walk into our Yoga class looking forward to practising, setting our intention and ready to move and breathe our way towards a more peaceful mind. Often halfway through though, something happens: We lose sight of the real reason we came, and our practice is no longer about connecting to ourselves and being present, but about being better than the person on the mat next to us, or pushing ourselves into that super impressive asana…. Sound familiar? This is where the ‘non-greed’ and ‘non-attachment’ aspects come into play.

If you’ve been taking part in our September Yoga month challenge and have developed a home practice, then you’re already feeling the benefits of getting on the mat more often. The more we practise of course, the stronger and more flexible we become physically, but it takes a little longer for our minds to catch up. While our bodies are more than happy with this daily dose of asana practice, the mind is all too often distracted with thoughts about how we could be better, stronger, or how we could get into that fancy arm balance quicker. We never seem to be satisfied with just what is at that moment, the mind becomes greedy, and we want more. As I’ve said in a previous blog post about the Yamas & Niyamas – we live in a ‘McDonalds society’, we want everything, we want it now, and we want it super-sized.

Practise for the love of practising

Progress in our practice is encouraging, but it doesn’t need to be the only reward. The sheer joy of the practice is the greatest reward in itself, realising how freeing it is not to have a specific goal we must achieve, but to simply move our bodies in a way that feels good. If we practise for the love of practising, without forcing or pushing ourselves beyond our edge, the body will unfold naturally and those more challenging asanas will be accessible in no time.

Aparigraha at home:

How many clothes do you have in your cupboard that you know you won’t ever wear again, but they’re still hanging in there just in case? How many gadgets, ornaments, books and shoes do we have that we really just don’t need?

Aparigraha can teach us that we actually probably don’t need the new shirt that looks exactly like that other one we have at home, we probably don’t really need to buy that new cushion just because it goes with the new wallpaper, and we definitely don’t need that new car just because it’s better than our neighbours’….

The more we hoard material possessions, the more we weigh ourselves down with not only physical, but energetic baggage, and the more we become attached to and worry about losing these said possessions. Believing that the new object we buy will bring us happiness is based on a feeling of lack that all too often enters our minds. In this sense, ‘lack’ is that sense of ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m not whole without that new thing’, when really we always were and always will be good enough no matter what. If we lighten the load a little by either selling some of the things we don’t need, or even better by giving them to charity, then we move towards living a less cluttered life both in our homes and in our minds.

The next time you feel you need to buy something new, take a moment to think of why you need it so much – will it bring lasting happiness? Will it help you find peace? Will it help you live in a more self-reliant and simpler way? (Hint…. This is also a great way to save a lot of money!)

Aparigraha in diet:

Many texts advise eating moderately, so as not to disturb our practice, and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika in particular lists over-eating as a hindrance on the yogic path. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t enjoy your favourite meals and treats, and it’s so important to make sure each of us nourishes ourselves to stay healthy, but it’s useful to listen to our bodies to recognise when enough is enough. It has been well documented that the world’s ‘blue zones’ (the places in the world with the highest life expectancy, and the healthiest quality of life) eat until about 80% full, so as to allow the body to properly digest and assimilate food. Okinawa in Japan is one of these blue zones, and the phrase ‘Hara Hachi Bu’, meaning ‘eat until you are eight parts full’ originates here.

It’s not just how much we eat that is worth considering, but also how much we throw away!

30% – 50% of the food produced in the world ends up as waste, this is equivalent to up to 2 billion tonnes. With a growing global population of around 9 billion people, demands for food are growing, but still well over 8 million people in the world go hungry every day. The food currently wasted in Europe could feed around 200 million people, so why are we still being greedy, over-buying and wasting food?

While of course we can’t all travel to undernourished countries to help feed those going hungry, we can still do our bit to help. When we practise on our yoga mat and help ourselves to feel good and create a sense of peace and positivity, that’s only really the beginning of the practice…. What we do after that is where it all counts; by creating a sense of peace within ourselves, we essentially make our selves more useful in the world. When our minds are less cluttered with worries and attachment, we can get on to the important stuff, like really making a difference in the world around us.

Start small; this could mean sticking to your shopping list next time you’re at the supermarket and not putting those extra indulgent treats into the trolley. It could mean cooking a big meal to share with friends, to make sure nothing goes to waste, or it could mean saving any leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. Maybe this could lead on to donating tins of food to those in need, or even volunteering to help feed those at a local shelter. Remember, our practice is to help ourselves feel good, but it doesn’t stop there…

Aparigraha in our minds:

Hindsight is a wonderful – and annoyingly useful – thing. If only we knew that those things we obsessively worry over didn’t really matter? If only we could stop being concerned with what might happen, and just enjoy what is happening?

Each time we enter into a new relationship, experience a sensation of joy and happiness, or start a new project, there’s often a flash of concern as we think – even just for a moment – what happens when this is over? What will come of this?

Becoming attached to a positive feeling or a positive experience is completely human, why wouldn’t we want to feel happy for as long as we can? But when we experience positivity, do we really let ourselves fully have that experience, or do we cling to it, willing everything to stay just as it is in that moment?

Change is the only constant thing we can expect in life

The Sanskrit word ‘Parinamavada’ is the teaching that ‘everything is in a constant state of flux’. Indeed, change is the only constant thing we can expect in life. Just as the trees drop their leaves in Autumn so that they may grow new buds in Spring, the day turns to night, the seasons come and go, we too go through changes every moment of every day. Our physical bodies are undergoing change every second with cells regenerating, blood flowing, bone wearing down and then being stimulated to build up again, breath moving in and out of the body; so too do our minds experience change continuously.

Happiness, joy and peace are important emotions to feel, yes, but so too is sadness, anger and loss. To experience only the good stuff is to experience only half of what life has to offer. The school of life exists to allow us to experience and learn from every aspect of our being, the light and the dark, and to truly live we must not push away the things we don’t want to feel, but allow them to happen, and know that this too shall pass. When we let the moment be what it is without either trying to cling to it, or to push it away, we can really say we’re living in that moment, allowing things to come and go, without the need to possess any of it.

Aparigraha offers us so much freedom – the freedom to work and do what we love without worrying about the outcome, the freedom to rely less on external and material possessions to bring us happiness, and the freedom to experience everything life has to offer, whatever that may be. See what happens when you apply this yama to your life, what happens when you just let go?

Words via @emmanewlynyoga from Ekhart Yoga 🙏🏾

Remember the Breath

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Resident Yin Yogi @terrafirmayoga shares her musings on the magic of the Ujjayi Breath.

Ujjayi Pranayama is the most simple of all yoga’s breathing practices. And because it is so easy to do, it is so effective. It can be done in any position. Sitting down, lying down, standing up, doing yoga asana, driving in a car, going for a walk and even listening to a friend talk…

Effective at slowing down your nervous system, your heart rate and your racing mind.  You need to breathe.  Especially if you have anxiety, stress or depression, aches or pains, injuries or illness. You need to breathe.

In Yin Yoga we learn to breathe the Ujjayi breath in a yin way.  Slow, steady and soft.  There is effort, but it is minimal.  This takes time and practice.  I like to teach it at the beginning of every yoga class, as the breath is the essence of yoga.

The key to Ujjayi is a gentle narrowing of the throat passageway.  This exaggerates the sound so you can hear it. The most important element of Ujjayi is the sound. As you slow down your breath and smooth out the flow, the sound becomes consistent and steady while becoming quieter and quieter.  It is the internal sound that is so divine.  It is the internal sound that heals our wounds and replenishes our cells.  This breath is guaranteed to detox your body and cleanse your mind.

The slow pace of the breath allows time for oxygen to be absorbed into the cells with each inhale, improving the efficiency of your cellular breathing.  Did you know that you have 50 trillion cells inside of you?  If your cells are breathing efficiently this improves your metabolism which affects how your body handles nutrients from your food.

At the same time each exhale carries out toxins and waste product.  Which yoga describes as purification. A way of making your body less dense.  Simultaneously, your mind and emotions are cleared of the density as well.

The word ‘prana’ is a Sanksrit word which means life force.  It is also called chi, mana and oxygen.  Pranayama means you are moving this force through you.  A body with high levels of prana is vibrant and doesn’t succumb to sickness. Any dis-ease will be improved by increasing your levels of prana.  The level of prana moving through your body determines your health, vitality and glow.

In a general class you may have enough time for 5-8 minutes of Ujjayi.  It is merely an introduction to the full practice of 20 minutes everyday.  But 5-8 minutes is enough to get you started on your journey to wellness and it will help you go deeper when you practice the yoga poses which follow.

It is a mystery how this simple breath can weave magic into your life, but if you remember to breathe an Ujjayi breath or ten everyday, I guarantee it will change your life for the better.

Remember to Breathe…

Love Tara X

You can download a 7 minute guided Ujjayi practice with Tara on Spotify or iTunes. 

Type in Tara Fitzgibbon or Breathe, Rest, Let Go.

 

The Science of Yin Yoga

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Resident Journo @byronbayyogi has something spesh for all you yinners out there……  She is about to give you the down-low on why Yin is so god-damn juicy…. and why you should get yourself on yo’ mat girl ❤

(Repost from our friends @ Uplift Connect:)

Image: Unknown

Creating Balance in Your Practice

The long-held, deeply restful postures of Yin Yoga provide a welcome contrast to the more dynamic, Yang dominated practices that are popular in the modern, Western world. A remedy to our fast-paced lifestyles, Yin is a practice that encourages people to slow down–immersing in the kind of stillness that can lead to the expansion of consciousness.

Today’s Yin Yoga is highly influenced by the philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which say that the body contains meridians–invisible energy highways that carry Qi (energy). The physical postures of Yin are said to work with these meridian lines to improve health and wellbeing.

Western science is also discovering the impact of the practice on a physical and psychological level. Yin creates the space to activate the parasympathetic nervous system(our rest and digest) and the longer holds work to unwind the body’s deeper layers of fascia (as opposed to working with the muscles in more dynamic movements). As we work with these layers, we create the conditions to release deeply held tension in the body and mind.

The Evolution of Yin as a Yoga Practice

The introduction of Yin Yoga to the West happened in the 1970s and is credited to yogi and martial artist, Paulie Zink. The roots of Zink’s practice are in Taoist Yoga, where Hatha Yoga poses are held for longer periods of time. The current style of Yin Yoga, however, was popularised by Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers, who have infused more Traditional Chinese Medicine and anatomical science into the practice.

Paulie Zink
Paulie Zink brought Taoist yoga–the beginnings of Yin Yoga–to the West in the 70s.

Truth Robinson, a long time meditator, yoga teacher and Chinese Medicine Doctor, teaches Yin Yoga training for esteemed yoga school Power Living, and has passionately studied the practice and its origins. He says:

The meridian theory Paul Grilley used is over 2500 years old and originates in China… It is based around the idea of Qi, which is erroneously translated as energy.

Sarah Powers, who was teaching at the same studio with Paul, “came to love the quiet floor poses that Paul was teaching”, says Robinson. He says, “Sarah suggested that… they should call these long-held, floor poses Yin Yoga… Paul and Sarah then taught the Yin Yoga practice to a growing number of students and it eventually became the practice we have today.”

Yin and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a system in which practitioners use herbal medicines and mind-body practices, such as acupuncture and Tai Chi, to treat health ailments and enhance wellbeing. In these Chinese systems of health, meridians are said to be channels throughout the body that direct the flow of Qi through an interconnected network that forms a complete energetic circuit. Qi can be weak, strong, agitated or balanced, and this impacts on our physical and emotional health.

Each meridian is associated with a different internal organ, and therefore the health of this organ is affected by the way that energy flows. For example, author of Brightening Our Inner Skies: Yin and Yoga, Norman Blair, says:

If the stomach meridian is blocked, we could feel nervous and unable to feel satisfied with receiving support. If there’s an imbalance in the Liver meridian, this manifests as anger and a feeling of hopelessness.

Yin for your meridiansYin Yoga affects our meridians–channels of Qi that run throughout our bodies.

According to these philosophies, there is no difference between our physical and emotional health–they are interconnected. Hence the health of the organs has a direct impact on our emotions, and vice versa.

When Paul Grilley delved into these traditional Chinese philosophies, combined with yoga asana, he discovered that certain yoga postures could impact the meridians and the way that Qi flows through them. Blair explains:

Certain Yin poses have greater influence on certain meridians and it is possible to construct a Yin Yoga practice that is based on this knowledge. In Butterfly, we strongly affect the Kidney meridian and the Bladder meridian. Frog accesses the Spleen meridian, supporting our creative potential.

The Anatomy of Yin

Sarah Owen is one of the leading Yin Yoga teachers in Australia and has been mentored by Sarah Powers for over a decade. She explains that the lower parts of the body, as well as the internal tissues, are more related to Yin Yoga than the upper body or the external tissues, such as muscle. She says:

“The more internalised tissues are best nourished when the muscles are not engaged but instead kept relaxed, and when the poses are held for longer periods.”

One of these internalised tissues, and a word we often hear associated with Yin, is fascia. Author of Fascia–What It Is And Why It Matters, David Lesonak, explains that fascia is like “a silvery-white material, flexible and sturdy in equal measure–a substance that surrounds and penetrates every muscle, coats every bond, covers every organ, and envelops every nerve.” He explains:

The most important thing to keep in mind… is that the fascial net is one continuous structure throughout the body…The ‘everywhereness’ of fascia also implies that, indeed, it is all connected, and thus is ‘connective tissue’, which is a term often used interchangeably with ‘fascia’.

FasciaFascia surrounds every muscle, covers every organ, and envelops every nerve.

Erin Bourne holds a Bachelors of Exercise Science, as well as extensive training in Yoga and Myofascial release. She teaches the anatomy of Yin Yoga on teacher trainings and is currently writing a book that looks at Yin poses from a physiological, energetic and meridian perspective. She explains that if we stop moving parts of the body in particular directions then the fascia begins to dehydrate, solidify and constrict. She says:

Think of a kitchen sponge that’s left to dry for days. It has no spring or flexibility. Yin Yoga lengthens the fascia, releasing the stuck spots and allowing the tissue to rehydrate and glow again (like soaking the sponge).

Fascia needs at least 120 seconds of sustained pressure to start to change. “This is why Yin, with its long pose holds, actually lengthens the fascia,” says Bourne.

Bourne explains that the poses in Yin Yoga also work the lines of the meridians, opening the whole length of a meridian and bringing light (Qi) to those dark spots in the body. Recent research has confirmed that 80% of meridian points in the arms correspond to the fascial planes, indicating a link between these Eastern and Western philosophies.

Robinson illustrates the importance of remodeling this connective tissue through adopting a dedicated Yin Yoga practice, to counteract the effect of how we hold our body in our daily life:

We all practice Yin all day every day, in whatever pose you adopt the most. Your body will see this as an important posture for it to hold and so will alter its structure to support your activities.

Yin and the Nervous System

Simon Borg Olivier is a long time yoga teacher, physiotherapist and university lecturer. He acknowledges that many of the fitness-dominated practices we see today are putting practitioners into fight or flight mode; activating the sympathetic nervous system and inevitably leading to anger, aggression and competitiveness. In contrast to these heart rate increasing practices, Yin Yoga works to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which allows us to rest and digest. Simon says:

I believe that if you are doing real yoga then you should be feeling love, happiness and safety while you are practicing, not only in your relaxation after your exercise… To generate yoga on a physical level by improving blood flow without needing to increase heart rate is not only possible but it is the way of healthy people and the way of real Hatha Yoga.

Yin yoga activates our parasympathetic nervous systemYin Yoga activates our parasympathetic nervous system, which allows us to rest and digest.

Tara Fitzgibbon, one of the most well known Yin Yoga teachers in Australia, agrees. “Yin yoga gives us permission to be still. It provides balance against all of life’s Yang activities, and allows us to reach deeper levels of rest, which open us up to higher consciousness.”

Yin and the Mind

The ‘mood’ of a Yin Yoga practice is one of self-acceptance, compassion, and simply being present, rather than an attitude of striving to improve ourselves or berating ourselves for any difficulties that may arise. Instead, the practice becomes like a meditation in which one can observe mental habits and accustomed ways of reactivity. The Yin Yoga practice creates a ‘holding space’ to practice mindfulness or other meditation practices, and to observe the inner and outer experiences as they arise. – Sarah Owen

As both Eastern and Western science are unveiling, when we relax in Yin Yoga, we begin to heal the body’s deeply held tensions and change the patterns that leave our body constricted, and impact our emotional health. As we progress through these physical, emotional and spiritual layers, the opportunity for expanding our consciousness easily follows.

Author:

Jessica Humphries- catch her Mondays and Fridays 9:30 am ❤