Prior to leaving the US, Vinyasa and Anusara yoga were the main components of my regular asana practice. Yin Yoga is a style of yoga that involves holding the poses for a longer time in order to allow the body to receive deeper benefits. While yang yoga, or faster moving yoga, often is structured around a peak pose with a goal to attain, yin yoga presents the challenge of showing up and being present. As we sit with each pose, connective tissues and fascia slowly heat and soften. Most asanas in a yin yoga class are held for a minimum of three minutes, and up to as long as twenty minutes. Sitting with the poses allows us to watch the reactions in our mind and gives us practice in simply being present.
A yin yoga class will be sequenced to help access meridian lines that criss-cross our bodies and relate to physical and emotional health. These are the same meridian lines that are used in acupuncture or acupressure and Qi-Gong practice, and the lines coordinate closely to nadis, or energetic channels for prana. Attuning your practice to these energetic channels allows us to target a specific need.
I have felt myself drawn to yin yoga more and more since moving to Central America. For one thing, the weather is hot. A Vinyasa, or yang yoga practice is naturally heating. Sweating is good and healthy and necessary, but when one’s body is overheated and fatigued, a soothing yin practice might be just the restoration that you need. Yin yoga is wonderful for cooling the physical body, and it’s also a good balm for hot emotions such as anger, frustration, and blame. As we sit and breathe into a pose, softening hard fascia corresponds to softening rigid beliefs which may keep us from seeing clearly a situation we are confronted with. In this way, your yoga practice can support your everyday.
This morning, I practiced a yin sequence for the lung, heart, and large intestine meridians. The digital body scan I had with the doctor some weeks ago suggested that my lungs and heart needed some extra love and attention, so I decided to focus my practice there this morning. Something happened as I settled into each pose. My yoga inhales and exhales slowly lengthened as my mind emptied. I felt the points where the meridians crossed vibrating with new energy as I came to the end of each pose and breathed myself into the counterpose.
I followed the asana practice with Nadi Shodhana, alternate nostril breathing. This simple and safe pranayama practice serves to balance the yin and yang energy of the body. It is a wonderfully calming breath, and can be practiced at any time of day. I find that combining the different tools of yoga – asana, pranayama, and meditation – can help us easily access our inner guru and can lead to profound healing.