Words by Helen Watkins
We all have a different story to why we came to Yoga or why we are interested to make that step now. I couldn’t encourage you more in this journey as Yoga has been life-changing for me and so many others.
In our fast-paced world we can easily be taken over by all the tasks we have to accomplish and forget to take care of ourselves. If for you self-care tastes a little selfish, I stop you immediately: self-care is absolutely necessary for yourself and for everyone around you.
You know how on the plane they will ask you to put your own oxygen mask, before helping others? That is only because that way you will be more proficient to help the ones that need you afterwards.
Self-care works the same way: taking care of yourself will allow you to show up as your best self for everyone else in your life.
There isn’t only one way to practice self-care, for you it could be taking a bath, having a massage, or just allowing yourself to say “no”. For me, self-care means slowing down my body and my brain, and I have a magic practice for it!
Yin Yoga is an incredible practice that will help you release the stress located deep in your body, connect to your parasympathetic nervous system and gain flexibility and mobility.
Yin Yoga has three main principals:
In Yin Yoga, we hold the poses for a long amount of time. Often, if you practice it in studios, it will be between 3 to 5min, but if you do it at home you may benefit by holding only one pose for 20min, and this could be your entire practice.
Holding a pose for a long amount of time teaches us patience and how your breath can help you release deeply. Uncomfortable situations inevitably arise in our lives and although we cannot control what is happening to us, we can always control how we react towards these events. Yin Yoga teaches us that the moment you stop resisting, your body will adapt and find ease. It will also show you that you have the ability to calm your mind and that your strength is greater than you think.
In Yin Yoga, we relax our whole body and let gravity guide us deeper into the pose. We try to resist fidgeting unnecessarily so we can fully connect inwards. In these moments, we realise how difficult it can be to be still. We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by images around us and shutting that world down for few breaths and checking with yourself will allow you to fully see your thoughts and desires, and although it can be scary, it is very insightful.
It is important to know that, even though you are aiming to stay still, you have the right to take the decision to move with purpose, and then find stillness again. After spending a long time in a pose, maybe you feel you can go deeper and want to move your yoga props to take you further. Or conversely, maybe you feel that you have gone too far too soon and now that a few minutes have passed, you struggle to stay in the shape. Stepping back is encouraged in this case. The practice of Yoga can be very humbling and knowing when you need to take the pose to a less intense variation, without any judgment or feeling of failure, is also self-care.
Line of discomfort
Although in Yin Yoga you want to prop yourself comfortably with pillows and covers, the pose that you are holding is essentially uncomfortable. A sensation is happening in your body: it is not Restorative Yoga (which is also an amazing practice, but a different one). You want to find a place where you are not in pain – pain is bad, intense, sharp – but where you are definitely stressing the desired part of your body the posture focuses on.
Often the poses that will be the hardest to hold, and that you will find very uncomfortable, are the ones you need the most. For example, if you keep all your stress and tension in your neck and shoulders, the poses that focus on these areas will be extremely triggering to you, as many emotions might come up to the surface. At first you may not be able to hold these shapes for too long and your mind might be focusing on the negatives, but if you stick to the practice you will unlock so much tension. You will create space and freedom in your own body, and slowly only by the power of your mind will be able to attain a state of deep relaxation, concentration and maybe even meditation.
Yin Yoga can be practiced in the Yoga studio, with Youtube videos, in your bed before sleeping to prevent insomnia, and even here at Balance Garden thanks to Jasmine’s articles offering all of us a new Yin sequence each time! Check out the most recent here
Give this practice a go and watch how much more yourself you become.
Helen is a performer and a yoga teacher. She teaches Vinyasa Flow and Yin, in Paris and London, catered for busy city lifestyle people who need to reconnect with themselves in movement as well as in stillness. She will be leading a retreat this May in Italy. Find more about her work at www.helenwatkins.yoga and follow her yogic journey on instagram @LnWatkins
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