Daily Yoga

Your Emotional Self-Care Guide in Yin Yoga

Your Emotional Self-Care Guide in Yin Yoga

Yin yoga is not just a physical practice. Often when practicing Yin yoga, we can traverse deep into our emotional processing that no other styles of yoga can take us to.

Why is that?

First of all, Yin yoga forces us to be still. And for some people, this stillness can be excruciatingly painful. Quite often when we are dealing with unresolved emotions (such as anger and sadness), we tend to pack our schedule with activities, appointments, chores and so on to occupy our minds to avoid confronting our emotional discomforts. Secondly, when holding a posture for a long time (like we do in Yin), we stimulate the energetic channels also known as meridians throughout the body. This consistently held pressure in the meridians act like acupressure and ultimately removes energetic stagnation in the channels upon release of the pose. Energetic stagnation can manifest in physical forms such as body pains, headaches, insomnia, and indigestion; or the stagnation can transform into negative emotions like jealousy, frustration, indecisiveness, paranoia, and depression.

Our well-buried emotions can surface up in different ways. Here are a few examples:

- An unexpected but intense emotional reaction such as anger, sadness, fear, and anxiety.

- A special memory or image from the past flashing before you. This memory/image can be something from childhood, past relationships, or a dream.

- You feel claustrophobic, nauseous, or anxious and feel the need to escape your practice.

- Uncontrollable crying and often the cause is unknown or from unresolved past relationships/events.

- You may feel an insurmountable sense of fear as if your life is threatened.

These are just a few of the many examples that you may experience during a Yin yoga practice. It is important to know that even the smallest hint of unease feeling deserves your attention. It is an opportunity to scope into your internal landscape- a reflection of your emotional wellbeing.

So now, the question is- what should you do when you experience an intense emotional release during practice? Below are a few suggestions that can help with your emotional processing:

 

1. Journaling

Writing down what you felt during the practice helps you remember and reflect later on. Describe in details what sort of feelings came up in practice- was it sadness, terror, frustration, or grief? Did you recall any special memory such as from childhood or a significant moment from your adolescent/adulthood? After a few entries, you may discover a pattern, and you can use the pattern to navigate what is it from the past or the present you are suppressing.

 

2. Acupressure, Qi Gong or Massage Therapy

Often we can clear up energetic stagnation through touch and sound. Acupressure and massage therapy are excellent ways to calm the body and restore mental peace. You should seek a well-trained therapist with whom you feel safe and connected to. As well, Qi Gong is a subtle Chinese energy practice that helps cultivate positive energy, increase blood circulation and sharpen mental focus. Qi Gong also uses sound vibration to release negative emotions.

 

3. Nature Walk

Taking a walk in nature helps bring balance in our body and mind. The fresh air and new perspective help us expand our mental horizon and ease our mind from obsessive thinking. As you take a leisurely stroll in nature, examine in details your surroundings and enjoy the present moment.

 

4. Nourishing food and plenty of sleep

It takes a tremendous amount of energy for emotional processing. Nourish yourself with nutritious food/drinks and get plenty of sleep. Avoid cold food/drinks, spicy food, coffee, and alcohol.

 

5. Solitude

After an intense release, you might feel extremely sensitive to people, light, smell, and sound. As best as you can, spend some time alone in silence. Witness your thoughts, body sensations, and feelings without any disruptions. Practicing silence is a great way to restore energy and gain a new perspective on our state of being.

Although the experience of emotion releases can be uncomfortable, nonetheless, it’s a golden opportunity for us to release any suppressed negativity. In Chinese medicine, diseases come from repressed emotions. Our emotional health is vital for living a long and healthy life. Yin yoga is an excellent gateway in finding balance from the inside out.

Love & Freedom: Finding Our Way Back Through Yin Yoga.

Love & Freedom: Finding Our Way Back Through Yin Yoga.

Practicing yin yoga is a way for us to delve into our inner beings. When the world is spinning fast, lost in the currents, we can find our way back through yin.

Take a look around us, what do you see? For me, I see people frantically filling their empty hearts with careers, properties, relationships, marriages and children. Is it not the way society has honed us in becoming, in pursuing? Is it not we can make our parents proud when we bring home another master or PHD degree, with a few more letters behind our names? Whatever the norm is, have you ever stop to wonder, what is the meaning behind all this?

From Krishnamurti, to discover the meaning behind this thing called life, we must discover what it is we love to do with our whole being. By discovering what we love to do, love that exudes from the innermost core of our existence, it is then we can be free. But then the question comes, what does it mean to be free? Is it to have many choices? Is it to exercise our free will and choose whatever our hearts desire? Let’s explore that a little here. Do we ever feel completely free when we’re presented with numerous choices? If you have come across such an experience, I would suspect the answer is no. When we find ourselves in a place to choose from many, we are everlastingly conflicted inside. How do we know which is the best choice? How do we ever know the one that we’ve picked will be the one we want tomorrow, the next day, or forever?

A man who loves does not do whatever he likes. It is love alone that leads to right action. What brings order in the world is to love and let love do what it will.
— Krishnamurti

Note that when Krishnamurti refers to man, he means humanity as a whole. When our hearts are filled with love, we automatically choose the right actions. Actions of selfless order, actions of infinite compassion. To truly love is to ask for nothing in return and to love with our entire essence. As you’re resting in your yin pose, look inwardly to see what is stopping you from love. Is it fear? Fear of losing your ideals, the picture perfect you have created since you can remember. Or is it fear of allowing yourself to be you?

Take a moment once in a while, to find out what is it you love to do. To find out what you really love to do requires a great deal of insight. So at least in a span of a few yin poses, drop your voices of insecurities and really listen, listen to what your heart has to tell you.

30 Minute Sequence- Yin Poses For Better Sleep

30 Minute Sequence- Yin Poses For Better Sleep

Do you have difficulties sleeping?

Based on the holistic approach, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) sees the sleep-wake cycle as a dynamic yet integral flow between the Yin and Yang. The Vital Axis states: “When Yang Qi is at its limit and Yin Qi is abundant, one’s eyes are closed. When Yin Qi is at its limit, and Yang Qi is abundant, one is awake.” Essentially, we naturally sleep at the Yin predominate time (night) while awake during the day when it is predominantly the time of the Yang energy.

Find out more about Yin-Yang here: Yin & Yang- How Balanced Are You?

Although there are many variables, there are two main Chinese meridians that can disturb our sleep:

Heart Meridian

In TCM, the Heart’s function is to circulate the blood and control the blood vessels, as well as to regulate the mind. As well, the sleep-wake cycle is part of Shen (spirit) activities. Shen refers to thought, state of consciousness and mental functions that keep the mind sharp and alert. It is believed that Shen resides in the heart and when it is too excited, for example during an emotional conflict like heartbreak and argument, sleep problems occur.

Liver Meridian

The Liver’s primary functions are to control the amount of blood in circulation and to create a harmonious, unrestricted flow of Qi (energy) throughout the body. A healthy liver facilitates sleeping rhythms, ensures proper vision and allows our emotions to be in appropriate balance.

A great way to ensure proper sleep is to harmonize the Liver and Heart channels through yin yoga. Yin yoga is an accessible form of acupressure and can be practiced by practitioners of all levels, age, and physical conditions. (Read: The Practical Guide to Yin Yoga & Traditional Chinese Medicine).

Here is a 30-minute sequence you can do on your bed before sleep, give it a try tonight!

 

Butterfly (Hold 5 minute and rest 1 minute)

Yin Yoga Butterfly- Annie Au Yoga

From a seated position, place the soles of your feet together. Gently fold forward as you let the spine round and soften. You can rest your hands on your feet or the floor in front of you. Simply relax your head toward your heels or place a block underneath the forehead for more support.

If your feet are closer to the pubic region, you will feel a more intense sensation in the groin area. Or you can also try sliding your feet further away from you and see how the sensation would disperse along the inner thighs. Both are correct, so choose the one that is more suitable for you.

 

Wall-Dragon Fly (Hold 5 minute and rest 1 minute)

Wall Dragonfly- Annie Au Yin Yoga

 

Place your legs on the wall and slowly open them to the side until you feel a mild sensation in the inner thighs. Try your best to wiggle your buttock right up against the wall. Gravity will slowly open your legs, so relax the body and mind as much as possible.

When coming out of the pose, use your hands to help bring the legs back up. You can keep the legs together and rest them against the wall.

 

Wall-Funky Chair (Hold 5 minute and rest 1 minute)

Wall Yin Yoga-Annie Au Yoga

Stay against the wall after Dragonfly. To enter wall Funky Chair, slide your hips slightly away from the wall, bend your knees and place the soles of the feet on the wall. Keep the knees at 90 degrees. As if you’re sitting on a chair, cross the right ankle over the left thigh. You may feel some sensations along the right outer hip and right inner groin.

Practice on both sides for 5 minutes and take a 1-minute rest afterward. To rest, you can come out all the way and lie down on your bed or simply prop the legs up against the wall.

 

Caterpillar (Hold 5 minute and rest 1 minute)

Yin Yoga Caterpillar- Annie Au

Extend your legs in front and slowly fold forward with a relaxed spine. You can place a pillow under the belly or the forehead for extra support. You can also sit on the edge of a cushion to help tilt the pelvis forward.

 

Meditation: Seated or Lying Down (6 minutes)

Annie Au Yoga Meditation

After completing the poses, find an easy seated or lying down posture for meditation. A simple but effective meditation technique is called Anapanasati (Mindfulness of Breathing). Anapanasati is most commonly practiced with attention focused on the breath, without any effort to change the breathing. Start by slowly inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Sustain an even count for both inhale and exhale (for example, inhale for three counts and exhale for three counts.) Try your best to focus only on the breathing and see how the chatters of the mind slowly fade away.

Your practical guide to yin yoga & traditional Chinese medicine

Your practical guide to yin yoga & traditional Chinese medicine

 

The Origin of Traditional Chinese Medicine

A fundamental principle of the Chinese system of medicine is that the human body-mind-spirit spectrum is a holistic one. As humans, we are intrinsically linked to our outside worlds from family, society, environment, and ultimately to the Universe. Based on this view, all manifestation of diseases is viewed as an outcome of an imbalance originating within oneself or in one’s relationship to the external reality.

 

The Dao and Yin- Yang Philosophy

“Writings do not express words clearly, words do not express thoughts clearly”; “ thus the sages created images to express thoughts clearly.” - LaoZi

The terms Dao (or Tao), Yin and Yang are images created by ancient sages to depict their insights into reality. The word Dao is used to embrace the eternal primordial source also called the Void, as well as the potential from which all things arise. There are two sides of the Dao. In its passive state, the Dao is empty and non-doing; while in its active state the Dao is seen to create and propel reality and all its enterprises.

Building upon the concept of Dao, the ancient sages created a dualistic phenomenon called Yin-Yang to describe the natural tendencies arise in nature. The terms Yin and Yang mean the dark and lighter sides of a mountain respectively, gradually extended to refer to the principle of duality inherent in all manifestation. There are four primary principles explain the dynamic interplay between the Yin and Yang in traditional Chinese medicine:

1. All phenomena contain two innate opposing aspects.

2. Yin and Yang are co-dependent. One cannot exist without the other.

3. Yin and Yang nurture each other.

4. Between Yin-Yang there exists a transformative potential.


yinyang Annie Au Yoga.jpg

 

Taiji (The Supreme Ultimate) represents the infinite, ultimate state of transformation. Visualize this symbol in 3-Dimensions. Within the Yin there is always some Yang and vice versa. 


Examples of Yin and Yang using the analogies of water/fire:

Yin-Water

Coldness

Moistness

Dimness

Downward/inward movement

Stillness

Yielding

Inhibition

Slowness

Heaviness

Yang-Fire

Heat

Dryness

Brightness

Upward/expanding movement

Activity

Forceful

Excitation

Rapidity

Lightness

 

The Twelve Regular Meridians

“ The meridians move the Qi (energy) and Blood, regulate the Yin and Yang, moisten the tendons and the Bones, and benefits the joints…”

The meridians are energetic channels that carry Qi or energy. When we die, the energy channels die as well. There are no anatomical structures to these channels and can only be felt through our subtle senses and self-inquiry.

The meridian system has five primary functions:

1. Animates the body

2. Keeps the organs up

3. Warms the body

4. Protects the body from external influences

5. Transforms one substance to another

The twelve regular meridians connect internally to the Organs and externally to the surface of the skin. Each meridian is distributed bilaterally and is named after its respective associated Organ. The meridians are also divided equally into Yin or Yang groups and are associated with different emotions such as anger, fear, anxiety, worry, and excitement.

The regular meridians are often used for physical/emotional healing purposes, as commonly used in acupuncture or acupressure. When practiced correctly, you can stimulate the meridian through thoughts, touch, and movement.


Yin Yoga as Acupressure

In Yin Yoga, the poses act as a pressuriser stimulating different meridians along the body. When practicing Yin, we apply gentle pressure over an extended period (from 3-5 minutes or more). Similar to squeezing a garden hose, the pressure increases inside the tube, and upon releasing the hose, the water pressure pushes through the hose removing any toxins inside. When we hold a yin pose, we dissipate any energetic stagnation by compressing the body tissues where the meridian are located.

You can also stimulate the meridians in other activities such as walking, massage, dynamic yoga, climbing, etc. However, the most significant aspect of yin is that it requires us to still our mind and body. Through stillness, we can observe the nature of the mind and perhaps seek a deeper understanding of our life beyond the physical self.

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Yin & Yang: How Balanced Are You?

Yin & Yang: How Balanced Are You?


The Yin Yang Theory is based on ancient Daoism. With darkness comes light, as we observe closer to nature, we realize that the universe is a delicate balance of the Yin and Yang energy. 

Yin represents softness, grace, Divine Mother, passive, darkness, and shade. Yang represents rising, power, action, masculine force, action, and brightness. As humans, we are in the ebb and flow of these two essential components of life. We rise with the Sun and rest with the Moon. We take actions in life and retreat into solitude to rest. Like the season, our true nature embeds this delicate balance.

When we're off balance, our body, mind, and spirit dwindle. Juggling too many things, we fall short on sleep, over-caffeinated, digestion slows down, and anxiety or depression sets in. In Yoga, life is a journey of reaching a higher state of consciousness. What does that mean? From the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, the Eight Limbs Path is a step-by-step manual showing us how to reach fixed concentration (meditation) and ultimately reaching Samadhi (absorption). 

How we do anything is how we do everything. Our yoga practice is a sacred mirror of our life. Are you practicing just power-based yoga and not balancing with meditation or Yin yoga? Are you rushing in life from one stop to another and never stop to smell the roses? 

Take a look. 

If you feel that you're out of balance, here are a few tips you can try:

1. Practice In The Morning

Morning is usually the best time to practice yoga. It can be physical postures, or seated meditation and breathing exercises. Starting the day with yoga can help harmonize the rest of your hectic day. If that is not feasible, do a 5-minute meditation before you eat breakfast and see how small actions can have a huge effect on your mind.

2. Mindfulness Time-Out

Every hour or so, take a mindfulness time-out. A mindfulness time-out is when you pause and tune back to your senses. Smell the air, taste your coffee, listen to the sound in your surrounding, and take a look at the fine details of a flower or painting. Mindfulness time-out can help take you out of your mind and back to the present moment.

3. Choose your yoga practice wisely

Sometimes we get fixated on the style of yoga we practice. The truth is, we have to practice to what our body truly needs that day. I am a supporter of discipline and feel that we should keep to a routine. However, if we're already having a super busy day, it's good to end the day with some gentle Yin yoga and meditation. 

4. No yoga is sometimes the best yoga

If you're constantly busy doing a million things from the moment you get up, see if you can take a day where you do absolutely nothing. Eat alone and enjoy the taste of the food, read or take a slow walk in nature; smell the air and appreciate the beauty of the people and things around you. 

Finding balance is a skill that we can cultivate. Try these tips out and see how it feels to be in complete harmony.