Yin Yoga & MINDFULNESS
How Yin Yoga and mindfulness can provide the perfect counter to the day-to-day stresses of modern life. By Sarah Lo
Yin Yoga is a practice where we calm the central nervous system. It is one that shapes and rewires our brains when we integrate mindful awareness with the psychological practices of instilling positivity such as gratitude and compassion. This, in turn, gives us an increasing capacity to care for the multi-faceted complex parts of our psyche and mind.
It is a style of yoga that encourages a safe stress through our tissues when we place ourselves in an optimal alignment for our unique structures through our growing interoception or awareness of ourselves and how we discover our everchanging bodies each time we practice and react to differing shapes and cues.
In Yin Yoga we understand a multitude of wisdom traditions and practices knowing that prana and qi life energy can be influenced by many different methods, whether it is through pranayama, or contemplation or concentration.
Having a deep respect for all sciences from Traditional Chinese Medicine to more modern-day studies through the discovery of the properties and role of fascia, the end result is peace or calm or ‘calm abidance’… it is a meditation practice which we learn, called Shamatha, if we are practicing with mindfulness.
Integrating mindfulness within Yin Yoga
As a long time yoga practitioner, I can’t imagine how one might practice without an awareness of what is going on in the body, heart and mind in terms of the physical sensations, our emotions pervading through us when we are focusing inwardly and the difficulty with staying with the focus knowing we are all susceptible to the distractions of the mind.
In other words, if we are practicing yoga with Yin postures and with this kind of mindful awareness, we are practicing Yin Yoga and mindfulness (unless, of course, we have chosen to place ourselves in a Yin style posture and then immerse ourselves in a movie or anything else which deliberately removes our attention to anything but our bodies. The choice is always yours).
Teaching Yin Yoga & mindfulness
The issue then becomes how to teach the two practices in a yoga setting, since we could also enrol on a mindfulness course with no yoga or simply train in Yin Yoga postures. One might argue that this isn’t yoga at all then without the deeper attention to self.
Mindfulness is a subject that can be studied by anyone. But without the felt direct experience of how it can affect every aspect of your life, every cell of your body, to what we might term a ‘transformation’, we’d be hard put to then translate this into a yoga class and to attempt to teach it to others.
We need actual and direct experience to even begin to sound authentic. When we are relaxed, our voices sound different! Not just chilled but authentic and genuine. How do we relax as teachers when the subject seems difficult to teach? Through the actual experience of teaching over and over again. Through the initial awkwardness, through the palpitations and uneasiness.
Everyone has had this at some point. Teaching yoga was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. To stand up there at the front of the class and to have my whole body on display and to have a class hanging on your every word. At the end of the class when students came up to say, ‘I love your leggings’ or ‘I love that music’, it was hard to believe that you poured your heart and soul into teaching a class and yet that was the best take away. Teaching is a humbling journey!
Where to begin?
Luckily, we don’t need to have travelled the same path or even a similar one to be able to translate how we embody these practices. Once we have met a skilled practitioner who has led us through these basic concepts and we have experienced them for ourselves, we are already motivated to want to both practice and then to share. That’s what teaching is, after all. Sharing.
My teaching has developed just as I have evolved, and my students and colleagues have grown alongside me. I’ll keep doing this as long as I can and until everyone or anyone is ready to continue to share. I think they are doing that already.
For information on Sarah Lo and Yin Yoga & Mindfulness courses visit: sarahlo.co.uk
First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.