Monday, November 2, 2015

Yearning for Yin

As the school holidays approached and two of my classes wound down for the term, I was looking forward to a break and time to prepare for new workshops I had planned for the following term. However, as with most things in life, plans change.

After being contacted by a social worker, Hubby and I reconnected with his Uncle and Aunt whom we haven't seen in over 20 years. Being a private and reclusive couple they kept very much to themselves with only occasional contact with family. Both have dementia and the disease has progressed to the point where they are no longer able to look after themselves without assistance. So the last 4-6 weeks have been spent travelling between the northwest suburbs of Sydney to the Northern Beaches (about 40 minutes each way) transferring and settling Hubby's Uncle and Aunt in an aged care facility, ensuring their home is secure, and ensuring their bills are paid.

It's been a busy and stressful time. Typical me! I went into ‘planning’ mode—tallying all the to-do's in my head, skipping yoga classes and my own relaxation practice, sorting and filing papers. Exhausted and lacking sleep I burnt out. I had delved into the minutiae of what needed to be done—staying up late to plan classes, doing the accounts for my yoga business or paying our own bills— and found it difficult to wind down and sleep.

A chat with the social worker and a short break from the travel brought some perspective. And trying Yin Yoga for a second time added a welcome and much-needed dimension to my personal yoga practice.

Yin Yoga uses asana to target the deep connective tissues such as the ligaments instead of the superficial muscles stimulated by other yang styles of yoga. The key steps to practise Yin Yoga involve:

  1. Coming into a pose to an appropriate depth, referred to as ‘finding the edges’.

    This step is about listening to the body, initially, taking the pose to a point where a stretch can be felt and then allowing the body to relax deeper into the pose, if the body can.

  2. Resolving to remain still in body, breath and mind
  3. Holding the pose for some time to allow the body to relax, the breath to calm, the mind to still.

I first tried Yin Yoga earlier this year and didn't like it. I found it difficult to hold each pose for the five minutes assigned to each pose. However, I was intrigued by the meditative format and stillness of Yin Yoga so decided to give it another go. I started doing the online Yin Yoga classes uploaded by Yoga with Kassandra and loved it! Kassandra does not seem to hold the poses for as long (or I'm getting better at finding my edges). I found doing a class before going to bed helped to release tension in my body and calm my mind.

The only problem I encountered were some muscle spasms in my neck a couple of hours after doing a morning class to release the upper body. The Yin Yoga philosophy is to stretch when the muscles are cold because stretching with cold muscles takes the stretch into the ligaments, whereas with warm muscles the stretch is taken into the muscle. Personally, I now warm up a little before a morning practice or practise later in the day.

I'm so glad I didn't write off Yin Yoga after that first experience. It is a reminder that you cannot judge a yoga style or teacher based on one class; you need to try different styles and teachers to find a class that resonates with you.

Yin Yoga has brought a much-needed release and stillness that was missing in my life. Who knows where life will take us tomorrow, next week, next month? What I know is that right now, my body and mind yearns for Yin.

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