By Nova C. S. Milesko -
Many of you will have come into contact with some slow or restorative yoga at some point. Really the main difference between Yin and the others is in the background intention of Yin yoga. But that is a big difference, instead of just leaving you to relax in some non-confrontational poses and enjoy the sunset Yin works your mind by making you have to sit with….YOU. With nowhere to hide, it is basically like being locked in a room with your head on full blast. You’re probably thinking it doesn’t sound so bad (wow, you’re balanced). Now add some Yin poses and wait…
The practice works by holding mostly seated postures for extended periods in a series designed around compression and extension of fascia, ligaments, and the connective tissue along with organ pairs of acupressure. As they say in the Yin yoga world: “your tissues got issues!” and you will find that a lot of the fun starts when you get into those hard-to-stay places. Then we really begin to separate the mice from the yogis. It is the staying with it that creates the transformation in mind and body.
As the brain responds with its usual aversion and the body begins to withdraw from the pose, you have to override the eject response. With time and repetition we rewire our neurotransmitter receptors in the brain to handle aversion, fear, discomfort, even pain differently (although never stay with sharp pain in any practice). We develop more spaciousness, compassion and understanding of the impermanence of all the emotions and sensations. I you doubt that you can change such basic things as your response to aversion though just sitting on the floor for a bit, all I say is ‘try it’. It works.
There is a case of a son whose father (a professor) had a very bad stroke and was in a coma. When he woke up, they found he had lost most of his memory and the use of almost all of his motor control, save for one arm. The son took him home and taught him everything all over just as you would a newborn. Some would say making your father learn to roll over and crawl is unkind, not to mention a touch demeaning. But within the year his father had relearned almost everything one needs to get along. Including speech, even when the part of the brain that controlled these actions had been destroyed by the stroke (for more about the amazing things the brain can do read The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat).
We have tremendous potential for change in our bodies, although it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the intensity of it all, it would serve us well to remember what amazing things we are capable of when we try.
Because Yin helps you see your inner workings you can transform your inner world, and that will be reflected into the one around you.
And that, my friends, is how Yin yoga can save the world (other yoga styles may also be applied).
Nova C. S. Milesko is the founder of Affinity Yoga and a frequent teacher for SERENE London’s Rise Up Outdoor Summer Rooftop Yoga Series. Nova is teaching the July 17th and July 31st classes - click to book.