Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Letting go

Recently I've been trying out some Yin Yoga classes. For those of you who read the wonderful Havi Brooks, you'll know this as "non-sucky yoga." Most yoga classes at health clubs and spas are variations of hatha yoga which basically works to stretch the muscles. (I know, it does a lot more than that but this isn't a yoga theory blog so, whatever). You get in a position for a minute or two and then move to another one. While there is "resting" in poses, it's mostly movement from one pose to another. Some forms, like "power" yoga, are workouts that get your heart rate going. All that stuff = yang yoga. Yin yoga is slower and more deliberate. It works deep in the joints, connective tissues and bones. You get into a stretchy position and stay there. For what seems like for.ever. but is really only like five minutes. There are lots of benefits to it but mainly, depending on the postures you use, it works to open the hips and pelvic muscles and to limber up and protect your spine. Those are the basic physical benefits. But the mental benefits are the most interesting.

Yin yoga is about accepting things the way they are but ever so gently pushing against the status quo. It's not about forcing change but allowing change to happen. Sometimes we get so set on getting things done and making things happen that we don't sit back and evaluate our goals and methods. We could be pushing for the wrong things or in the wrong way and wondering why stuff isn't working. Yin yoga is about changing that mindset.

Here's how it works. You get into a pose - say, laying on your back, pulling your knees up and twisting them to one side. If you aren't very flexible, you could find your knees hovering inches (or in my case, feet) above the ground. Your spine is protesting. Your hips are swearing at you. But you eventually get to a spot where you can more or less comfortably stay for a bit. And you stay there. And you breathe. And breathe some more. And a funny thing happens - a release of sorts - you notice that your knees are closer to the ground, your spine isn't so pissed at you anymore. You feel muscles relaxing that you didn't even realize were tense. You let go. You stop trying to control everything. You let it happen the way it's supposed to happen. Do this with a few different postures for about an hour and you might start to realize all the places in your body - and your life - where you're holding on and not letting things be. Where you're pushing in the wrong direction. It isn't about things staying the same. You accept where things are now and put yourself in the right position to allow change to happen.

Where are you holding on too tightly in your life? Where are you resisting change or pushing for change in the wrong way? Anatomically speaking, we often tense our muscles as a way of protecting ourselves. When we try to hold ourselves together (literally and figuratively), we tense up. Relaxing our muscles can sometimes feel like we're allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. But if we continue to over-stress our bodies and minds, if we never let go of the tension, we're making ourselves vulnerable to poor health.

Pick one thing in your life that you would like to change and try letting go of any resistance or tightness you have as it relates to that issue. See what happens when you allow change to happen in its own way instead of forcing it.
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