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#YinYogaLove

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I have a body

I have breath

I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts

I have energies and powers inside of me, some I was born with, some I create, stimulate, and balance as I need.

There is a physical world around me, I know I can have a positive impact on it; however, I move with the seasons and remember not to push only to flow and nurture the change I wish to see in the world. I trust when the time is right it will be so.

There are also many people around me. I intend to interact with all of whom cross my path with openness, love, and kindness however never at the expense of my own humanness nor self-love.

I give and I receive

I manifest and I adapt

I stretch and I compress

I am soft and I am powerful.

The benefits of Yin yoga are a touch like the fascia it works with, you can try and simplify it and say it works on different layers  – the physical body, the energetic or spiritual body and the mind. However, like fascia it is more like an interconnected web of benefits. A web of benefits that supports the creation of a balanced lifestyle, or Wu Wei. The benefits of yin accumulate to a human experience in which we can stand in our own power, beauty and wonder whilst equally moving with and flowing with the ebbs and flows of the universal seasons.

However, our human minds still prefer the logical and analytical so let’s take this layer by layer.

The physical body.

Yin yoga is a practice is for any and all body types, it is one of the most accessible styles of yoga as it honours the concept that functional alignment is greater than ecstatic alignment. Within yin practice there is space for modifications for all bone structures and body types. “I’m not flexible so I can’t do yoga” doesn’t cut it here.

If we strip it back to anatomy yin yoga works with ‘yin tissues’ this includes joints, bones, ligaments, and fascia.

Joints – Yin supports the rejuvenation and maintenance of our joints, by compressing our joints we are stimulating the production of synovial fluid which is responsible for the lubrication and health of our joints.

Fascia-  the fascia is a type of connective tissue that essentially holds all our bones, muscles and organs in place without it we would be a puddle of bones, organs and skin on the floor yin yoga we take passive long holds to stretch the fascia, this stretching creates space and releases tensions in the body, increases range of motion, reduces feelings of stiffness and improves circulation. Fascia is also responsible for our sense of proprioception (our ability to know where our body is in space). By working with our fascia, we are developing a strong sense of body awareness, which physically supports our motor planning, sequencing and execution which translates to improved skill acquisition in relation to any new skill.

There is much we don’t know about fascia however there is exciting emerging research around its functions and roles within the body. Some neuroscientists are coming to believe that fascia is capable of carrying conscious thought, meaning yin will allow and create a strong body-mind connection. There have also been studies on the impact healthy fascia can have on cancer recovery and autoimmune disease.

The energetic body.

Yin is a powerful modality to develop an awareness and understanding of the energetic body.

Yin is based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine concept of the meridian system and the flow of chi. The meridians are pathways in which chi flows. Chi refers to our life force energy sometimes referred to as prana. Throughout different stages of life our chi can become stagnant, and it can also be overactive in various areas of our body. The practice of yin helps to balance our chi by stimulating and compressing our meridians the end goal is to have free-flowing chi around the whole body. Yin also offers a space in which we take the time to feel the flow of our chi.

Being in contact and having awareness of our chi and our meridian system is an unbelievably helpful tool in understanding our emotions and how we can work to regulate them.

We have 12 major meridians all of our meridians have various emotions and characteristics associated with them. Meaning that depending on what energies, emotions or life situations are present we can use certain yin postures to work toward free-flowing chi in the associated meridian.

Below are our main meridians and just one of the many examples of life situations/ emotional states associated with them.

Urinary Bladder Meridian – It can be helpful to work with the UB when we are experiencing nervous system dysregulation and to stimulate a parasympathetic state.

Kidney Meridian – Working with the kidney meridian can be a powerful tool in learning how to respond to fear particularly when faced with change or challenges it allows us to tap into a general trust in life and ability and trust in universal guidance.

Liver Meridian – Working with the liver meridian is useful when dealing with feelings of frustration and anger that emerge from plans gone wrong. The liver can help us to gain perspective, develop cognitive flexibility and learn to overcome barriers.

Gallbladder Meridian – Working with the gallbladder energy helps us to tap into our sense of courage helping us to make decisions and follow plans. Less talk more action!

Stomach Meridian – Activating the stomach meridian promotes the nourishing and nurturing of ourselves and the people around us in an appropriate manner.

Spleen Meridian – Working with the spleen is helpful for any of those who tend to overthink, healthy chi flow of the spleen promotes mindfulness and one thing at a time mentality. No hurry, no worry, no sorry!

Heart Meridian – Working with the heart vibration we cultivate a sense of joy, passion, and laughter we remember to be playful and lean into joy.

Small Intestines Meridian – Working with the small intestines energy can help us to become more in sync with those around us supporting connection and interaction with another.

Lung Meridian – With this energy in balance we know how to be with strong emotions like sadness, sorrow and grief without trying to hide them, fix them or fade them.

Large Intestine Meridian – Great to tap into during a full moon ritual or in the waning moon phase, the ultimate energy you need to let go of what no longer serves you!

The mind.

The process of yin promotes the development of mindfulness. Yin has a superpower in challenging the western “go go go”, “rise and grind” lifestyle. Yin allows us to firstly slow down, gain awareness of our thoughts, separate ourselves from our thought and realise importantly that we are not our thoughts. Our thoughts can say whatever they want to say at the end of the day they have no real power over us, we always have choice and control over our actions and how we show up in this world.

Let’s look at an example: You’re in a yin class and so far you have been enjoying some gentle forward fold and you are excited to continue to enjoy a nice relaxing gentle sequence but then the teacher tells you, “and now 5 minutes in frog” your thoughts tell you ff off, not happening, give up, they tell you that it’s too much, that wasn’t what I was expecting, that you can’t do it, you feel angry and frustrated. However instead of hooking onto these thoughts and feelings you unhook, you let them drift around. Slowly time passes, you begin to sink into the pose you create some space physically but also mentally for these thoughts to come and go, the intensity of the thought reduces and what’s this? You are actually beginning to enjoy the sensations. Now the teacher tells you it’s time to find your rebound.

The cognitive skills displayed here are extensive.

  1. Emotional awareness
  2. Awareness of thoughts
  3. Cognitive flexibility, there was an unexpected obstacle to a plan, and you overcame it
  4. Mindfulness

Yin yoga importantly creates harmony in our lives bringing together our mind, body and energetic field helping us to connect to mother earth and equally the universe.

Colleen Mann, Yin Yoga Therapy Ambassador Australia

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Why We Like Mantras

sunprayer - yin yoga teacher training

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A mantra is a sound (maybe a word, or sentence), that is considered to be able to lead us to liberation. The word mantra comes from the two words: ‘manas’ referring to mind, or consciousness, and ‘tra’ which means ‘to free’. Thus we could say that a mantra can liberate our mind, and merge with universal consciousness.

Traditionally, chanting was used specifically to pass on knowledge from the Vedas. As, at
those times, writing was not common, the teachings were transferred in this
manner. Usually, students had to be able to remember the text first, before the
teacher would comment on them. 

You will come across spelling of Sanksrit mantras in different ways. Given that Sanksrit is written in a different script and from there translated and written in modern writing makes that there are different variations. Don’t be upset about the different spelling and follow the chanting of your teacher. Also, be mindful that different schools chant the same mantras differently (different intonation, speed, etc.). Again don’t worry about and rather focus on your intention while you are chanting, that is most important. 

Looking at it from a modern approach you can even create your own mantra, it’s the intention which is essential. And the more you practice and repeat, the more powerful your own manta becomes, fine-tuning your body, mind and soul balance. 

Benefits

Physical & mental health – chanting is supposed to have many benefits as it creates vibrations that have effect at different parts of the body and mind. 

  • Improved concentration – chanting requires the student to be fully present and listen closely to the teacher. This process of listening and reproducing the chant is called “adhyayanam”. It improves both concentration and memory .
  • Calming the mind – chanting is a beautiful practice that is both calming and energizing. According to TKV Desikachar (the son of T. Krishnamachary), chanting is an important form of meditation.
  • Intention: energy flows where attention goes.
  • Chanting together as a group empathises to bring the individuals together, tuning into the same vibration. Therefore it’s a wonderful thing to do before a yoga class.

The most known mantra: OM – AUM 

A – Brahma          U– Vishnu          M – Shiva 

“Om is who is all names and forms” 

Om is present, past and future 

Om is the first and underlying sound / vibration of Universe 

One-ness of all things 

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The Water Element Sequence

Here i introduce my favourite sequence to the Daoist Water Element, working with the kidney and urinary bladder meridians. I skip all the technical details but let you know my approach to the poses. For guidance of how to get into and out of poses www.yinyoga.com is always a good resource.

Toe Squat

The Toe Squat is quite a challenging pose to start with, but a beautiful way to activate all our lower body meridians flowing through our feet (UB, GB, ST, LV, SP, K). The pose also provides the opportunity to automatically acupressure K1, our most grounding point under the ball of the foot (releasing excess energy, calms the heart and clears the mind). There is this old Daoist saying “A person with open toes has an open mind’ 😉

Take the help of your hands to make sure all the toes are really stretched out. While guiding my students into the pose I always make sure to mention that if the pressure on the toes is too much you can release the upper body forward and bring your weight on your elbows. If that is still too much (some people are really sensitive here) an alternative is to just bring your toes up a wall, so ball of the foot is on the ground and toes stretch up the wall.

After two minutes swing your feet around to the front and come back for a few moments into a neutral rebound on the back to make sure the toes get some time to release and to let all the lower body meridians flow undisturbed again. Enjoy the happy life sparkles in your toes!

Dragonfly

The Dragonfly pose with a leg/ groin stretch and a forward fold is a very efficient way to stretch our kidney meridian along the inside legs and the groin, while then this meridian gets compressed through the forward fold in our abdomen. Here it crosses our Dan Tien, our energetic and physical body center. It is said here is the place of our instincts. (Additionally our liver meridian get activated in every groin stretch as well.)

At the same time we stretch our urinary bladder meridian all the way out from the backside legs and along our spine flexion, from there it flows along our neck, across our head to the inside corner of our eyes. It flows through our third eye, the place of our intuition, and through our limbic system, which is needed to feel emotionally stable.

The Dragonfly makes a perfect pose to address the energetic value of the water element, to reconnect to our basic trust in life, to trust our journey and to let go of subconscious fear.

Precautions need to be taken for people with lower back issues, hinge from the hips to the maximum point possible first rather than round the spine right away, sitting on a bolster can help. People with tight hamstrings might struggle, then we can place a bolter under the knees. Also it’s important to make sure the feet are not falling inwards, as this is a tendency we don’t want to emphasize regarding our general body posture. Place bolsters on the inside legs to prevent this inward hip rotation.

Three to five minutes, depending if you add some variations, is a good length of time here.

Lateral Dragonfly

The lateral opening version of the Dragonfly gives us the opportunity to stretch out our gallbladder meridian along the side of our rips as well and the arm stretch is a nice opening for the heart meridian emerging from our armpit. Three minutes on each side is nice.

Dragonfly Twist

Another variation is a simple turn over to the side and forward fold over one leg, addressing the wood element with liver meridian flow through our groin and (like all twists) engaging the liver and gallbladder meridian flow on the sides of our torso. It is nice here to follow the general yoga rule to always exhale as we move into the twist. And like the lateral version here we have the chance to stretch out all our arm meridians of the fire and metal element. Each side for three to five minutes.

After the dragonfly-flow stay in a brief neutral rebound lying on your back before we move deeper into the forward flexion.

Snail

The snail is the biggest release of the whole spine and probably our most intense yin pose. The stretch of the bladder meridian along the spine to the maximum while the kidney meridian get an intense compression in our abdomen makes this an ideal water element pose. It has all the great benefits of the inversion: reversing then blood flow from the heart to the head, flushing trough our blood vessels, giving them a detox which can help prevent a heart or brain stroke. The inversions are said to be ‘the fountain of youth’ in yoga.

To get into the pose you start lying down and lift your hips, support with your hands. Allow your back to round (unlike Halasana in which we keep the spine and legs straight) and your feet to drop over your head toward the floor.

This pose puts a pressure on the neck so be careful if you have neck problems. Like all inversions it is not recommended for anyone with high blood pressure, upper body infection, vertigo, glaucoma, or a cold. Women during their menstrual cycle may find it better not to do this pose or maybe not for too long. For everyone else the longer the better to get the most of the inversion benefits. As alternative the Caterpillar serves well.  Avoid this pose with lower back disorders which do not allow flexion of the spine. And its definitely not a good pose with a full belly or are pregnant.

I prefer here to not to dictate the time but let everyone decide for themselves while I just mention every passing minute. However, after maximum five minutes release into a neutral rebound for some time.

Happy Baby

The Happy Baby is another nice opportunity to get some self-healing acupressure point in the practice, here we can easily press K1 (our most grounding point, see more at the first pose Toe Squat) on the sole of our foot at the beginning of the pose. The groin stretch is a great kidney meridian (also liver meridian here) activation. The neutrality of the spine makes this pose the ideal buffer between all the spine flexion’s we just did and the spine extensions, which will follow ahead. Finish with a brief neutral rebond position.

Sphinx & Seal

Always a nice combo is to come from a Spinx into the deeper Seal. Here this pose also functions as a counter pose to the snail to extend our thyroid area.

I recommend staying for three minutes in the Sphinx, elbows right under the shoulders here, and then push the arms up straight for two more minutes into the Seal. The position of the hands may be adjusted toward the corners of the mat, but as always, if you feeling is in your target area, the lower back here, you are doing it. See what feels right!

To have a complete rebound it is better to turn around on your back to also release your ankles.

And as with all our backbends we compress the urinary bladder meridian on our back while we stretch our kidney, spleen and stomach meridians in our abdomen. The pressing up in the Seal also presents us the opportunity to stretch out our upper body Fire and Metal Element meridians, especially the lung and heart meridian.

Release the body back to the ground slowly and enjoy a neutral rebound on your front, suspend the complete rebound on your back for now as we move even deeper into the backbend and keep the ankle stretch with our next pose.

Camel

The camel is a rather active and challenging pose but a beautiful heart opener. However due to its yang nature I like to keep this pose rather short.

The kidney meridian gets stretched out on our abdomen and chest, while the urinary bladder meridian gets compressed on our back. If you can reach your ankles you can even press acupressure point K3 on your inside ankle and UB 60 on the outside ankle. (But this also a perfect pose to open our chest and to stretch out especially our lung meridian along the arm. This pose also makes a good stretch for the earth element meridians on our thighs and abdomen.)

After two minutes come into a brief rebound on your back.

Supported Bridge

Not a classic yin pose, but my favorite back bend and ideal to be practiced keeping the yin yoga principles in mind. If the block is to hard put a blanket over it or just use a bolster instead and literally just hang out for 5 minutes. It is a wonderful pose to really completely release all our back muscles and to surrender completely in the back extension. I find in back bends it takes the longest to really let go of our natural reactivity of our muscles so it helps to really give this pose a long time. Do come out very slowly vertebrae by vertebrae and enjoy a long rebound in neutral position.

Child Pose aka Turtle

After all the back extensions the turtle is beautiful way to bring everything together again, to return back home. Perfect for the water element this pose is connecting our forehead, our third eye, our intuition to the ground beneath us, to mother earth. And of course it gives us the benefits of a gentle inversion: reversing the blood flow from the heart to the head, flushing through and strengthening our blood vessels to prevent heart and brain stroke.

Stay for four minutes. When you are teaching here is a nice opportunity to give your students a back stretch and massage. Before proceeding to the rebound pose it might be nice to just sit on the heels for a moment to let the blood flow reverse.

Reclining Twist

It is always beneficial to finish off with a good reclined twist to restore equilibrium and prepare for our final relaxation. Great pose to really let everything drop and let gravity do the work. Three minutes each side.

Shavasan / Starfish

A Yin variation of Shavasan, the starfish or penacle. To stretch out our arms and legs a bit more allows us create some space under our arms and between our legs where we have most of our glands and lymphs. This way they get some space to expand breathe, which they never have much in our daily life. Also it creates the opportunity to really stretch out all our meridians to let everything in our body flow uncompromised.