Why is Stillness so Hard?
In the busy, highly stimulating world we live in today, finding physical stillness, let alone mental stillness, is almost impossible. We have grown accustomed to a world of instant gratification and shortcuts, and sometimes bring these expectations to our mats.
We live in a fast-paced culture that values efficiency, results and measurable outcomes. We want things to happen faster and faster, and stillness can often be perceived as laziness.
However, even though our minds may be capable of doing 10 things at once, our bodies cannot keep up. More and more people are turning to yoga for relief from stressful, chaotic lives. In particular, they're turning to Yin and Restorative Yoga.
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin yoga, unlike its action-packed, adrenaline-pumping Yang counterpart, is a stable, slow, restorative practice. In Yin yoga, we hold a seated or supine (on-the-back) pose for three to five minutes, sometimes even working up to 10 minutes! Yin is a passive and fluid practice. There are very few alignment cues, and the goal is to find stillness of the body, which facilitates stillness of the mind.
Years ago, a student approached me after a Yin/Yang class (half flowing Vinyasa poses and half Restorative/Yin postures), and he said, “Yin is not for me, because it is too easy.”
From an outsider’s view, the Yin practice may appear quite easy at first glance. In this prop-heavy, quiet class, there is very little movement. However, like an onion, the layers go deep, and what may appear to be “just sitting or lying there,” can often be extremely challenging. Most people are not used to being still, and even have strong feelings about the uselessness or lack of efficiency of being still and quiet.
Simple Does Not Mean Easy
When I first tried Yin, I did not understand it. I was living a life of constant activity and if a workout did not make me sweat, I did not see the point. For some unknown reason to me at the time, I continued to go to Yin. At first, it drove me mad that I couldn’t quiet my mind. It was like I was watching a movie of every thought I’d had in the past two weeks. Exhausting! This physical stillness was unbearable to me. I was stuck with myself! No distractions. My mind was craving the constant stimuli it had grown accustomed to in this world of bombarding images, tasks, concepts, to-do lists, etc.
Over time, I learned to appreciate and even crave the silence and stillness. I started listening to my body and switching up my daily practices depending on whether I needed more restoration or more activity.
The real muscle to be strengthened in Yin is the mind.
Yin yoga may appear to be a physically simple practice; after all, there are only about 20 poses. However, what is going on inside the mind is the most beneficial and potentially difficult practice of all. Many emotions, memories, and ideas will arise during a Yin practice, and the goal is not to suppress these sensations, but instead, observe them without identifying with each thought or adding stories.
Imagine the surface of the ocean. On the surface, there may be torrential and crashing waves. However, in the depths of the ocean, there is calm. When we are able to cultivate physical and mental stillness on our mats, even when challenges arise in the body or mind, we can take this newfound stability out into the world and apply it to our daily lives.
If you have never tried a slower, stiller practice, please join me
Wednesday nights at Up Yoga at 7 pm for Ease Up.
If you are interested in learning how to teach Yin Yoga, join me
Oct 18-20 for a Yin Yoga Teacher Training at Up Yoga
What is Yoga Therapy?
Have you ever wondered why one type of yoga practice benefits one person and wreaks havoc on someone else? You are not alone. We are multi-faceted, complex, fascinating creatures and we all need to take different approaches to health and wellness. That’s where yoga therapy comes in.
Yoga therapy is not a new field, but it is getting a lot more attention in the West recently. Yoga therapy takes into consideration the unique needs, health history, postural alignment, past injuries, personality, lifestyle, goals and Ayurvedic constitution of each individual. Ayurveda means “the science of life” and is oftentimes referred to as the “sister science of yoga.” Ayurveda provides a framework of healing and finding balance based on assessing each individual’s unique combination of qualities.
Often, clients meet with the yoga therapist 1:1, but there is also a growing number of yoga therapy group classes, like “Yoga Therapy for Depression” or “Yoga Therapy for Chronic Pain,” popping up in hospitals, yoga studios, and clinics.
Yoga Therapy Empowers the Individual
As a yoga therapist, my hope is to work myself out of a job. The yoga therapy model is not a magic pill solution, but rather empowers clients to take their health and wellness into their own hands by building a deep sense of body and mind awareness. When we check in with our true needs, desires, and physical sensations on a daily basis, it becomes easier and easier to make choices that align with this truth.
“Your Shoulder is Not Bad, Because You are Not Bad”
One of the most common things I hear from clients is that they want help with their “bad hip, bad shoulder, bad knee,” etc. Because yoga therapy takes into consideration the whole human through a holistic lens, I challenge this notion of “bad.” You are not bad. Your body is not bad. You certainly may be experiencing pain, discomfort, stress, or fatigue, but there is nothing inherently wrong with who you are.
One of the things I find most attractive about yoga therapy is that it does not condemn. The reason why it has been both personally and professionally so profound for me is that instead of seeing the world through a polarizing lens of “right or wrong,” yoga therapy seeks to truly see, understand, hear, and support each unique individual.
Everything can be a poison or a medicine, depending on what the individual needs in the moment. For example, one person might go kickboxing and feel like anger has been released. Another person’s anger will increase. Is kickboxing inherently calming or aggravating? The answer is neither and both. It depends on the individual.
Yoga Therapy is Not the Same as Gentle Yoga
Very often, regular yoga classes are described as therapeutic, healing, gentle, restorative, etc., but this does not mean they fall under yoga therapy.
In a yoga therapy session, an individual’s specific health history, personality, habits, goals, physicality, and Ayurvedic makeup is taken into consideration. It’s possible that one client’s treatment plan will include gentle yoga, but it’s also possible that a client would benefit from a more powerful, strength-building practice.
Is Yoga Therapy Right for You?
Whether you are looking for deep relaxation, recovering from an injury, or searching for practical ways to bring your yoga off the mat and into your daily life, yoga therapy has so much to offer you. Merging ancient wisdom with modern functional movement training, yoga therapy will give you the tools to move your body efficiently and with ease, building greater body awareness and mindfulness.