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Three Main Principles in Yin Postures



There are three main tenets that help nourish the joints in a yoga pose. The first is to come into the chosen shape to an appropriate edge. This is means coming into poses nonaggressively and sensitively, allowing the breath to remain slow and unlabored so we can detect the appreciate depth of sensation that we feel we can tolerate. If we attempt to take on too much intensity too soon, our inner state—or mood of resistance—will actually hinder the chi flow, causing more energetic disruptions. If, on the other hand, we do not exert enough tension, avoiding any strong sensations, we do not allow these areas to expand into their full ranges of motion and it is the pulling and pressure that excites the chi flow into them.




  If we are working on an area that is fragile, injured, or hypermobile, we need to do two things. First, we should merely suggest the shape, coming into the pose just enough to stimulate chi flow without any feeling of strain. Second, we need to remain highly focused on the sensations promoted by the pose, thereby refining our meditative attention, while relaxing the rigidity around the painful joint. Of course, we may also need to use props; allowing for modifications and variations to support damaged or destabilized areas. These adjustments are greatly enhanced by the assistance of a skilled teacher in the beginning, but they are also shown in many of the pose variations in this book.




  The second tenet to help nourish the joints is to become still and muscularly soft, allowing gravity to have us. Whenever we move, the chi flows more predominantly in the muscles and fasciae. During a Yin practice, we intend to pool chi in the bones and joints, which requires that we diminish movement and settle into the pose. Of course, there will be times when we feel our tissues moistening and naturally drop deeper into a pose. At other times, we may concede that we too far too soon and need to back off. These kinds of adjustments are certainly appropriate. We may also feel our legs falling asleep at times and want to come out to massage the area and bring it back to life before returning to the pose.




  The lengthy postural steadiness allows us to develop yin qualities of surrender and observance, a willingness to feel a greater tolerance for uncomfortable experience. After doing many Yin poses strung together, I have found that a feeling commonly develops that is similar to the effect of a long acupuncture session. My body begins to feel a heightened sense of clarity and restfulness. My acupuncturist liked to call this “acu-bliss.”




  The third tenet is to hold each pose for a while so as to fully nourish the meridians. As with acupuncture, where the acupuncturist does not put the needles in only to take them right back out, we want to coax the chi into particular pathways, helping to engorge the respective organs with refined energy. This takes some time and patience. I like to set a timer so that I can let go of wondering how long it has been, freeing my mind to connect to the present moment more easily. For brand-new beginners to this practice, I suggest one to three minutes in each pose, although five minutes is what I teach and practice most often. I find that it is just becoming challenging for people at three minutes, and the extra two-minute intensity can be a wonderful training ground for cultivating a broader capacity to stay with unpleasant sensations(as long as it does not feel risky).




  Once we understand why and how to set up a pose and have chosen one to settle into, our first anchor of attention can become the breath in the center of our body. I find that a slow Ujjayi breath allows the mind to drop into quietude best , while also assisting the energetic equilibrium(see page I02).Pranayama is a direct way to influence the distribution of chi and can be practiced formally sometimes during the Yin poses in a very effective way. (I will discuss this in more detail in the next section.)




  The steady breath rhythm acts as a barometer for how skillfully we are practicing, and if we pay careful attention, it allows us to refine our ability to detect any tendency toward overaggression or pushing our body too far. When the soft sound, which is similar to waves building under the ocean floor, becomes jagged, forced, or interrupted, it is time to back off from the physical intensity in order to reconnect with the inner waves of breath flow.




  Once we are aligned with our unhindered breath rhythms, we can settle deeper into our observing nature. Since the poses themselves do not require constant thought, we can turn our attention to the subtler aspects of experience.



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