Mindful yin yoga combines the influences of mindfulness, Indian Yogic practices, Chinese Daoist principles with western science to improve our health on many levels. With its emphasis on long held, passive stretches, mindful yin yoga increases flexibility in the back, hips and pelvis, mobilises and strengthens the joints and allows both body and mind to drop into deeply nourishing relaxation.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention, on purpose and without judgment, to what goes on in the present moment in your body, mind and your outside environment. It involves intentionally stepping out of ‘automatic pilot’ to be present, aware and responsive.
The Mindful Triangle of Awareness we bring to our Yin Yoga Practice
Body – to find you middle path of not too tight, not too loose. Is there something you can let go of? Or perhaps your body is asking you to surrender to some limitations and work with others? If you breath is ragged or if it just doesn’t feel good, these are cue for you to com out of an asana.
Thoughts – has your mind wandered (it will, that’s what minds do). Are you caught in your ‘story’ and practicing mindlessly. Are you judging your bodies on the basis of what you can or cannot do? Try to put the awareness of your breath as the centre of your practice, you may need to bring your awareness back time and time again!
Emotions – do certain asanas make you feel angry, frustrated or sad? Perhaps you bought these emotions onto the mat. What would happen if you changed your breathing? Try gentle Ujjayi to bring calmness and balance, a longer exhale to reduce anger or anxiety, the heart breath (inhale and exhale for the same duration, without force), for sadness.
The attitudinal qualities of Mindfulness that we bring in our Yin Yoga practice
What is Yin?
Yin and yang are philosophies of the Chinese Daoist tradition. Yang, is active, doing, striving, much of how we live our lives today. The essence of Yin is yielding, accepting the world as it is, letting go, being. We need a balance of both these aspects, to live a health life.
What is Yin Yoga?
A bringing together of all both of these principles and combing with yogic tradition of breathing exercises and physical asana (postures).
• Play to our edges – each time you come into an asana, go only to the point where you feel a resistance in the body. Give you body a chance to open up and if you are invited to go deeper, only then do so, listen to your body. You will feel the body being stretched, squeezed or twisted.
• Rest in stillness – once we have found the edge, we settle into the pose and wait without moving, aware of our breath, mindful of thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations and dropping into stillness. The 3 kinds of stillness we seek are:
o of the body – like a majestic mountain
o of the breath – like a clam mountain like
o of the emotions – like the deep blue of the sea
• Holding for time – when we have arrived at our edge, once we have become still, all that is left to do is stay. The yin tissues of deep connective tissue, ligaments, tendons and bone are not elastic and they need long-held, reasonable amounts of traction to be stimulated. By doing this we are able to:
* stretch the fascia, muscles and ligaments along the back of the spine, pelvis and hips
* restore normal range of movement in tight joints
* rehydrate the synovial fluids and moisten ligaments
* break down old scar tissue
* release toxins and waste products from tissue
* initiate the relaxation response to calm the mind
What is Mindful Yin Yoga
Combining all these elements together, our classes consist of asanas (postures, poses) with long holds, with moment to moment awareness of breathing and of the sensations that arise as you put your body into various postures. It is another way to learn about yourself and come to experience yourself as a whole.
We practice to our limit, this limit may be different from yesterday or tomorrow. We practice at that limit, dwelling in the space between not challenging the body at all and pushing too far, we call this the middle path.
To find the domain of being, we need to learn and practice mobilising our powers of intention, attention and awareness during the movements, breath, body sensations, thoughts and emotions. When the domain of being is activated, any exercise can be transformed into a meditation.
Stepping out of autopilot, intentional, self exploration
Spacious, awareness of body, thoughts & emotions
Automatic pilot, habit
The golden rule is that every individual has to consciously take responsibility for listening to their body as the best teacher is you!