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Energy flows where attention goes

Part 6 of my personal introduction to Yin Yoga.

If your head is elsewhere when you are doing yoga you are missing the point!

Of course it takes a lot of practice, but maintaining your attention on where you are and what you are doing now is a key part of any yoga practice - and none more so than yin. There are plenty of tools or techniques that I use to help me in this. Sometimes I focus on my breathing, the steady even flow in and out, other times I take my attention to breathing into the stretch in the target area and trying to release tension. But the main point here is that the focus is internal.  I'm not saying that our attention won't come and go as we get distracted and have to refocus each time, but each time we realise we have drifted off, is a chance to bring our attention back to the body.

So, why am I saying that I think this is so important? It's because Yin is about so much more than just finding flexibility and relaxation by moving your body through a series of twisty postures! The yin postures, when held for longer periods of say 2-5 minutes, actually work on a much deeper level. That is, they work into the energetic body as well as the physical.

What do I mean by the energetic body? This is the physical paths of our nervous and  emotional systems, the unconscious messaging from brain to body and body to brain. If you are already into yoga you may have already heard of things like meridians, chakras, chi. These are all parts of this energy system. There is increasing interest even in medical science in how our body communicates internally, and the role of things like soft connective tissues and the fascial tissue that surrounds our organs, muscles and joints. When we deeply stretch our connective tissues in the front of our bodies like in saddle or camel, when we deeply twist our backs like in twisted root or marichiasana, or when we deeply compress a joint like in swan, we are sending all sorts of messages throughout our body as well as learning how to hold a challenging position calmly or relax completely.

I’m not a scientist, doctor, accupuncturist or reflexologist so I don't claim to understand in detail how these things work at an anatomical level. But I do know that the yin moves when practised for longer than a few minutes, and held in a relaxed way, feel very different to the traditional "yang" muscle based yoga postures. This is the importance of the rebound - lying back for a few breaths or a minute or so after a long hold to feel what is going on inside the target area you have just worked on. As my teacher says - this is when the magic happens. That pulsing, steaming or tingling sensation that you notice, and makes you feel good - that's your body's way of saying thanks for looking after me. So make sure you notice where your energy is flowing.

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