Monday, March 05, 2012

Yin Support

Cracking ice in Sheboygan, Wi
Yin yoga was suggested to me a long time ago, back when I wanted to return to yoga, but wasn't sure which style or teacher to go with. As I posted here and here, I struggle with physical practices in particular, and need to have a sense of total safety (and anonymity, I've found - plenty of my students are yoga teachers, but I need to not be both their student and teacher at the same time). As a part of my new year's intention to support myself more, I have committed to yoga at least once a week at Jewel in the Lotus in Madison. And the main class I've been taking is Yin.

A friend who teaches yoga in LA went to see a new teacher when I visited with her. Coming home from the class, she said "Wow. Sometimes I forget that I should try other teachers. That the one who I really like and take classes with all the time is good, but a new teacher really shakes up other views." Though my main teacher of Yin at Jewel (Olivia) is still teaching me a lot, I had a new teacher as a sub today (Ash). And he taught me a lot in a whole new way. Just by taking my expectations so far of this beautiful practice, and presenting it slightly differently, my practice - and mind - became instantly enriched.

The biggest thing that stuck out to me was his discussion of our hands. A student had asked for some wrist/hand work because she struggles with them giving way when she practices yoga. I know a piano teacher who has this issue and of course, sometimes, as a frequent writer/typist I get issues, too. So I paid extra special attention to his suggestions. Because he emphasized this part of the body, he pointed out that what makes us human - our opposable thumbs - is also what makes us human in other ways - our tendencies to grasp, clutch, grab. He encouraged us to loosen our thumbs in any pose, even if we "weren't working on hand/wrist ones" and feel our hands from the center of our palms (where the "x" or "m" comes together between the ring and middle finger). There we could find an energetic center - a passive but powerful place, a yin place - that wasn't oriented around trying to grab, get or attain anything (as the yang element does).

"The power of love, not the love of power. There's nothing wrong with a love of power - a deep respectful love for it. But we also need to know the power of love."

All this from my freaking thumbs.

My regular teacher usually picks a theme word - last week was freedom - and encourages us to contemplate it both mentally and physically as we do our practice. "Feel the freedom in your hands" or reads us a quote about freedom to think about as we feel the discomfort deep inside in the pose.

The other major element of his descriptions of grasping is that at one point he asked us to consider what our tendons/connective tissue was PROTECTING - what are these connective tissues anticipating? He explained that discomfort - not the same as pain, which is something I never really got in yoga until Yin - is a protection, part of our body warning us that we should not let go. Sounds an awful lot like the critic - the guardian at the door - which I wrote about here.

Feeling that - the protection, the lack of its necessity, gratitude to it for existing, then letting go of the clutching and protecting - took me to a whole new level of relationship with the critic inside.

I dare say that Yin is winning me over - or perhaps, because Yang is more winning oriented, it is yinning me over. Regardless, I go willingly, without grasping. And now I'll go for both teachers, as I have much to continue to learn.


  1. This was delightful to read, and I'm glad to read you've made a real connection to yoga! About a year ago, the teacher at my regular yoga class changed and I was crushed, and was decided that the new teacher was terrible and I wasn't going back.

    Then I was reading a Heather Sellers book, and she was talking about resistance, and in particular mentioned a new yoga teacher and how her resistance as telling her that she didn't want to learn from THAT teacher, or in THAT way. After reading that, I went back to yoga, and have been deriving many benefits ever since (and enjoying the teacher).

    Still, I'm kind of looking forward to our next move, and the new opportunities that will open me up and knock me around.

  2. LOVE THIS! Thank you for sharing it!