Yin and Tonic

Today I have a two hour workshop on yin. Yin is long held poses encouraged to open up the connective tissue within our bodies. Any ‘body’ can do yin but not any ‘mind’. The long held poses, the quiet and the discomfort are almost too much to bear for some students. I suggested one of my newer students try it and she laughed ‘ oh no I’m not ready for that!’ Lying still gives opportunity for space. When we have space we can see ourselves a little more clearly and sometimes we don’t like what we see. The antidote for space is keeping busy and most of us now have made that our mantra, keep going, keep doing……..but not keep being.

Here is what yin can teach us;

Discomfort is expected.“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” ~ B.K.S. Iyengar

Life is pretty messy isn’t it? Buddha states in his first noble truth, ‘life is suffering’. Sometimes a day seems like a series of annoying moments linked together with coffee breaks. Even though I got up before dawn to write this in peace my son got up not long after so during this we are talking about the ‘Friendly giant and superpowers’. It’s not what I ordered but what I got.

Pain is all around us ready to greet us at any moment. Emotionally, mentally and physically.

People can upset us, ignore us or leave us. We can become slightly sick or suffer a major health turning point. We can feel discomfort when we recall memories, and we can even create pain by thinking about things that have not even happened.  During the yin class we experience some physical discomfort as we stay up to 10 minutes in a pose. Yin teaches us this very important life lesson. Stay with the discomfort, don’t run and don’t hide. The discomfort in your life is there for a reason. It is a teacher and it is there to reflect to you something that you need to know. By staying with physical discomfort in yin poses we can train ourselves to be more resilient in our life. We can learn about courage and what it means to stay. We can learn what it is we have to change about ourselves to relieve the discomfort. Maybe it is how we view ourselves or maybe it is just remembering to breath.

yin quoteThe value is in the long held poses.

The first minute is usually OK for most students in the pose and then we watch what happens. The distractions start. Students will start to pick at their toe nails, shift in their seat, drink water, adjust their wardrobe. Anything to distract them from the stillness. Distraction is the first sign of not being present. What you are trying to do is change the situation that you don’t feel comfortable with. We all want to flee discomfort. We all seem to want to be somewhere else except in the moment. Most of us feel like the next moment is going to be better. Staying with what you have, appreciating the gifts of the moment amidst the discomfort is doing yoga. We can do this in our lives when we encounter awkward situations with relationships or work. We can do it when something becomes difficult and we want to give up. We can practice this when we become impatient. Yin teaches us to stay in the moment.

Being with yourself is time well spent.”Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Each pose is like a mini hibernation. You go into silence and stay there and watch what comes up. Sometimes the combination of long held poses, space, time and permission can bring up some stuff. Some of this stuff can be very emotional. I have been in a pose and cried, it’s not uncommon. What happens when you give yourself time is you start to see things about yourself. Maybe you realise there is something that needs to change in your life. Maybe you take something out of your dump truck of past experience that you never processed. Maybe you realise that time and peace is the tonic that you have denied yourself. It’s a bit like not knowing you were being squashed until the big white elephant gets off your back. When you are liberated like this, when you can look closely at your pain or blockages then you are beginning the process of unveiling or revealing to yourself your true nature.

Practice for today: Try one yin pose and hold it for a long time and see what happens. This is the beginning of self study and learning. If you are unable to do this remember the lessons from yin. Stay with what is uncomfortable, don’t run or hide from what you dislike, take time to be in silence with yourself and have courage to witness whatever comes up for you without judgement on yourself.

67: 4 Things not to Stress about

change acceptanceThere is a well known quote by Reinhold Niebuhr; “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  What he is saying is there are some things in life that we just can’t change and of course some that we can. The difficult part of this is knowing which is which. By studying ourselves and the world around us we can start to appreciate that we don’t always have control over our world and we are not masters of our destiny as much as we would like to think.

1) Things don’t always go to plan and sometimes the more you try to make things go to plan, the less likely it will go that way. The things that you least think about are more likely to happen than the things that you worry about. My daughter had her final leaver’s ball. Preparations had been going on for months. She was worried about so many aspects of it and so had planned it to the minute. Tell that to the earthquake that came the day before, closed all the shops, left her stranded and without half of the plans on her list accomplished.

2) Everything ends or dies. This is a basic law of nature that humans somehow think they can escape. They try to escape it by clinging. Clinging to the present, then the past. Grabbing onto people and situations that please them. Then someone leaves you, dies, you lose your job, your house, your money, your looks and finally your body but we still don’t quite believe it can happen to us.

3) Life is not always fair. Did someone tell you life would be fair? We seem to think it should be. We want it to be fair if we play by the rules. Well, things happen. Things happen to good people, bad people get away with something they shouldn’t. Your friend gets the promotion when you have been working all hours, and someone takes that last piece of cake. People don’t love you as much as you love them. It’s the same for everyone. One day we might just wake up and see that we are not the center of the universe like we had thought.

4) Pain is part of life. Emotional, physical and mental. However we can alleviate our pain and suffering by remembering that how we react to pain is one thing we can have some control over. The Buddhist tale of the first arrow being shot is the pain and the second arrow is the one we shoot back towards ourselves, creating more pain, is a great reminder.

Practice for today: When something crosses your path today that is one of the above, gauge your reaction to that event. The situation is just a situation. The situation is probably something that is not within your control to change. Your reaction to this is what causes the stress. Be real with yourself today. Is that situation something that you can change or something you should accept?