The Earth Phase Yin Yoga
Sequence with Mindfulness and Mind and Opeining to Insight
"We don't use the body to get into a pose, we use the pose to get into the body" Bernie C. Clark
These words by Bernie Clark powerfully speak to the attitude with which we approach ourselves and this practice of Yoga. Both Yin and Yang styles. We are instructed and led to bring our bodies into poses (asanas) so that we might know our body/mind better and through the pose, with stillness, time and a meditative practice, we can begin the healing process and bring about lasting therapeutic change to our body/mind. On this journey you will need patience, a willingness to get into your body, an openness to inquiry about yourself, your mind, body and emotions and a persistent practice of loving kindness and non-judgment towards yourself and the process. The poses are designed to bring about therapeutic change to our bodies - in Yin Yoga we are especially targeting our connective tissues, joints, ligaments, tendons, fascia. Stillness and time are necessary to effect change in these important areas of the body. Additionally, these poses and specific sequences can and do target major Organ Systems of the body and their respective Meridian Channels as they are taught and practiced utilizing Five Element Chinese Medicine, Taoists traditions and healing practices and the knowledge and wisdom of Meridian System Theory by Dr. Motoyama. When we gather ourselves into a pose/asana, bring our bodies to an 'appropriate edge', allow and resolve for the body to remain still for a particular length of time, we can get 'into our bodies' and effect powerful therapeutic change to our physical bodies and our energetic bodies as well. Adding mindful practices targeted specifically for the Organ System being worked - as proposed by Kellie Adkins, M. Sc,- allows us to effect therapeutic change to our emotional, mental and causal bodies. "Where attention goes, energy flows". Sarah Powers.
Some definitions and explanations will bring further light and understanding to the above:
Yin Yoga - "Yin Yoga is a style of Taoist Yoga that emphasizes opening the deeper energetic channels of our body by relaxing the outer musculature and applying therapeutic stress to the skeletal and connective tissues" Kellie Adkins, The Wisdom Method.
Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga with postures or asanas that are held for long periods of time - from one to five minutes of longer. It is a series of passive postures, primarily working the lower part of the body (but not exclusively). A consistent practice over time can lengthen these connective tissues and increase mobility and flexibility. The postures are designed to create the conditions for therapeutic change within the fascia (which are said to 'en-sheath' all of the major systems of the body) and connective tissues of the body as well as to engage the Meridians - energy channels within the body - to effect healthy change within these Organ Systems. Additionally, the stillness and long held yin poses allow the Yogi to bring mindfulness practices while in the posture and effect change in the causal (emotional and mental) body.
"Yin Yoga provides the vehicle for learning to turn our focus inward, become and make friends with our own minds and bodies, restore balance to our body/mind and to heal ourselves and possible our World" Paul Grilley
Taoism: Taoists Yoga (or Taoist Yin) is a series of exercises mainly in lying and sitting positions practiced by Taoists to cultivate Ch'i (or prana) . Ch'i is the internal, primal energy or essence of the body. This ancient Chinese religion, Tao, means "way' "path' or "principle'. Tao emphasizes the way or path to Health - Emotional, Spiritual, Physical Health. "Be still and flow like a great river': Lao Tse - founder of Taoism. This saying encompasses the essence of Yin Yoga - Be still and allow the energy to flow throughout your body.
Meridian Theory: This theory maintains that Meridians are water-rich channels (nadis) in the connective tissues, especially the fascia, that flow in and through all the major structures and systems of the body. Chi' - our primal energy is thought to run through these channels. Yin Yoga was designed to activate Chi'i and move this primal energy through the Meridians or channels of the entire human body, specifically, the connective tissues. Interestingly, the Meridian channels are very closely aligned to the acupuncture sites used since ancient times. Dr. Motoyama's work includes mapping these energetic channels and the 'way' to activate and enliven them for greater health and body/mind.
"Each of the major meridian pairs corresponds to one of the Five Elements or Five Phases in Chinese thought - Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal - as well as a function in the body, a state of mind and an emotional state that signifies imbalance" Kellie Adkins.
Chinese Five Elements:
Taoist's looked to nature in order to understand how things worked, how the world, and we in it, worked. The belief is that as nature unfolds, the qualities that are demonstrated in nature are 'universal', meaning they happen to all systems in our world (plants, animals, earth) and that an understanding of these elements could be used to help understand ourselves and utilized to treat disease and improve health. Chinese Five Element practitioners believe that the elements that occur in Nature - Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal (The Five Elements) also occur in the human body. They believe that these elements unfold and impact our body/mind, and further that our body/mind can affect our health and well being. These elements are thought to impact on different organ pairs (Yin and Yang) and their corresponding meridian pairs and are expressed with unique energetic and functional qualities. The interconnected organs and meridians pairs do not correspond to the Western anatomical organs. Instead, the Yin organ/meridian pairs are "concerned with pure energy of fundamental substances....they transform, regulate and store these primary energies." Yang organ/meridian pairs are involved with impure substances.......their job is to receive and digest food, absorbing useful components, while transmitting or excreting waste." "Yin organs provide supportive nurturing energies while yang organs provide more active elements" Sarah Powers.
In her book Wood becomes Water, Gail Reichstein explains the powerful characteristics of Earth element, in nature, in life, in all things. Earth Energy Contains: it creates and sets boundaries. "Earth is thus a vessel that protects life as it would a liquid, which would otherwise be dispersed." Our bodies reflect Earth energy - it contains all that is within. Earth Energy Balances: It shapes and aids the transitions of Yin and Yang, it brings balance to the opposition of forces around us, within us and throughout nature. You can see Earth balance energy when you are trying a balance pose. Many forces are at work, gravity, energy traveling upward, hugging in and letting go. Earth Energy Accumulates: All around us and through every system in our body, we can see Earth's accumulating energy. When we practice gathering food from harvest for later use, we practice Earth's energetic quality. When we breathe, this act of taking in, utilizing and letting go are Earth's Accumulating Energies at work. Earth Energy Nurtures: "Vital to every process of reproduction, Earth nurtures by giving of itself to foster new life." - Gail Reichstein . We can see this at work in our life practice - we consume food for nurturing our bodies, Earth offers nutrients to 'nurture' bring life to all living things. Earth Energy Allows: "Earth element does not lose patience or make demands, it simply holds the space. Only an environment that lets things percolate in this way will be fertile enough to sprout an exciting idea." G. Reichstein. As with all the elements, it is fundamental that we balance these energies. Excess or deficient energy produces diseases and destruction in all living things.
The Earth Phase in the body is represented by the Spleen and Stomach Organs and their respective Meridian Pairs. The Earth element includes the Spleen (Yin) and Stomach (Yang) and is expressed - when in balance - as stable or centered energy. Just like the Earth Element herself, the Spleen and Stomach Organ Systems represent the ability to assimilate energy in the form of food and digest this, removing waste and impurities while saving and utilizing the nutrients for distribution to all the other body systems and for our overall health and strength. In our causal body, the Spleen and Stomach energetically represent our ability to take in information and use the beneficial and let go of the impure. It is reflected in our clear thinking, insight and ability to be spontaneous. Balanced Spleen and Stomach chi allows us to 'feel at home inside ourselves" - Sarah Powers.
When we practice Yin Yoga Earth Element Phase, we are coming into asanas that pull and tug on the Spleen and Stomach organ and their Meridians. The Meridian Pairs for the Spleen and Stomach run from the toes up the front/top of the leg and into the torso, through the groin, entering the Spleen and Stomach before going through the diaphragm, chest, heart and the through the tongue and face to the top of the head. Thus the poses/asanas that activate and tug at these meridians focus on the hips, the front of the legs, and twists.
The Third Pillar of Mindfulness is a practice of observing and noticing our mind thoughts, its patterns and opening to insight into the paths and ways of our minds. We practice non-judgement and acceptance as we observe silence and stillness. Mindfulness of Mind thought is particularly powerful when practiced in Earth Phase Yin sequence due to the energetic qualities of the Spleen and Stomach meridians when in balance. This pillar of mindfulness adds dimension and power to the bodies asana and stillness.
My experience when practicing this Earth Element Yin practice is quiet contentment in my body mind, a stillness and strength. I experienced stability and calmness in both my mind and body.........ahhhhhhhh
Wood Becomes Water, Gail Reichstein
Insight Yoga, Sarah Powers
Yinyoga.com, Bernie C. Clark
Meridian Theory, Dr. Motoyama
Wisdom Method, Kellie Adkins, M. Sc. ERYT, CYTher.
Yin Yoga, Paul Grilley
Chinese Five Element Practices