Yin as a mindful practice - noticing what's happening on the mat.
Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Introduction to Yin Yoga
How often do we just stop and notice what is actually happening moment to moment when we are practising our yoga or in life for that matter? There is a whole science, and business, around mindfulness these days. Thich Nhat Hanh, who was credited with bringing mindfulness to the west, explains how to apply mindfulness...
You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea. Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup. Only in the present, can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy. If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea. You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone. Life is like that. If you are not fully present, you will look around and it will be gone. You will have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and beauty of life.
Yin yoga is a mindful practice because it offers you an opportunity to focus on one pose at a time instead of trying to keep up with flowing from one to the next.
You mindfully enter your pose in a way that works for your anatomy and stay there whilst you "feel" your way into it - as opposed to working your way into it. And once you have reached your edge, you can relax your effort and just be there.
This is perhaps the most difficult part of yin yoga. Some students simply don't like it - its boring, too slow, you can't feel anything. Paul Grilley has said that when a student says they don't feel anything what they really mean is that they don't feel what they were expecting to feel, because in yin we are working more with the energetic body than the physical. Feelings or sensations may be more like pulsing and streaming deep within the target area. This is very different to the muscle stretch or pull we are used to with more yang style activities.
It is very easy to get distracted from what you are feeling when you are in a pose as well. Your busy mind will want to get busy thinking about something completely different, like what happened yesterday or what you need to do tomorrow. So when I can return to thinking about what's happening on the mat, I’m being mindful about bringing my attention back again and again to where I am here and now - ie on my yoga mat. I'm not saying its easy, or that over time your mind will become still. That is not the purpose of a mind - it is always active. Yin yoga for me is all about refocusing your attention to the inside, and that is a practice - which means you have to keep working at it.
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