The Fire Phase Yin
The Psychological and Mental benefits of the Fire Phase in Yin Yoga with Practices of Mindfulness of Emotion (The second pillar) and The Nine Clearing Rounds (Pranayama)
"The key to Yin yoga as therapy (as opposed to traditional "hatha" yoga) is it triune focus on stillness, mindfulness, and breathing: which together have a harmonizing effect on the energy system.......We only affect the energy lines and the energy system by either a) becoming still and relaxing the outer body, and /or b) uniting our attention with our intention"
Yin Yoga serves to balanceto the more energetic, active, heat building Yang Yoga most commonly practiced today. It is yoga for our joints. Our bodies need both the elements of Yang Yoga which emphasizes building internal heat, strengthening muscles and building cardiac strength by moving our blood and oxygen through our bodies and Yin Yoga which works on bone and connective tissue health. Connective tissues are ligaments, tendons and fascia (sheets or bands of connective tissue) contained in the joints and spine. Fascia is said to 'en sheath' all of the major systems of the body - Nervous System, Circulatory System, The Muscles and Skeletal Systems and the Digestive System and all other organs. Overtime, Yin Yoga can lengthen these connective tissues and increase mobility and flexibility. Both musculature and connective tissues play a role in our body's overall flexibility and health.
Additionally, Yin Yoga from Taoist and Meridian Theory emphasizes Chi and the flow of energy within the body. Taoist Yoga encompasses a series of exercises mainly in lying and sitting positions practiced by Taoists to cultivate ch'i - Wikipedia. Ch'i (or prana) 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 like a mountain and flow like a great river” Lao Tse - the founder of Taoism. This saying encompasses the essence of Yin Yoga - Be still and allow the energy to flow throughout your body.
The Meridian Theory - objectively demonstrated by Dr. Motoyama - 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. Ch'i - our primal energy is thought to run through these channels. Yin Yoga was designed to activate Ch'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.
Vital to the practice of Yin is its basic tenets: 1) Mindful movement to an appropriate edge in the asana - muscles that are relaxed allow connective tissues to be stressed or worked 2) Stillness - Attention/Intention turned inward and guided visualizations influence the subtle body of connective tissues and fascia. 3) Remain still for a length of time - Connective tissues in the body do not respond to rapid movement, but to moderate stress over a length of time. Additionally, it is only through cultivation of acquired stillness that we can learn to breathe through stress and pain which translates powerfully to our emotional lives off the mat 4) Release with Care - respect the transitions on and off the mat. 5) Mindful Breath - especially those which suit each asana and particularly each phase. 6) Guided visualizations and/or Mindful Practices - of body/breath, emotions/feelings, mind and our unbounded nature (The Four Pillars of Mindfulness) - again, especially those particularly suited for each phase.
The nine clearing rounds of breath – which is a breath practice of clearing the ‘three emotional poisons’: Greed/clinging, Aggression/hatred, and Ignorance/delusion. This practice can solidify and embody the act of letting these ‘poisons’ go
Utilizing the above practices and theories, we can begin to construct a powerful series of Yin asanas (postures), with breath and mindfulness practices to powerful impact the physical and more subtle mind/body systems.
The Fire Phase of Yin Yoga:
The Fire Phase specifically targets four organs – two yin organs – The Heart and Pericardium, the sac surrounding the heart (Heart Protector) and two yang organs,The Small Intestines and the Triple Burner (San Jiao), which represents the three areas in the torso:the solar plexus and up including the lungs the pericardium and the heart , the solar plexus and navel including the liver, gallbladder, spleen and digestive fire of the stomach and the area below the navel which governs the small intestine and the other organs of elimination – intestine, kidney and bladder. It is also related to the tongue.
Fire is the element of heat, summer and enthusiasm; nature at its peak of growth, and warmth in human relationships. The Fire element is represented by the color red and a pointed, triangle shape. Fire’s motion is upward, hence is associated with dynamic, energetic, passionate, enterprising energies. Fire is the symbolic of combustion and this represents the functions of the body that have reached the fleeting moment of maximum activity; indicating that decline is then inevitable.
The Yin asanas in the Fire Phase are specifically designed to rhythmically flow through and target the meridians that affect these organs.The Fire Phase Meridians run through these organs, up through the face and down the arms through to the pinky, ring and middle fingers.The postures then involve heart openers, shoulder and upper back stretches, side bends and lengthening of arms and fingers, with slight pressure being placed on the face.
In the Fire Phase asanas we practice Mindfulness of Emotion – becoming aware of our feelings, emotions and reactions to these without judgment and with practiced loving kindness. We use Mindfulness of Breath to guide. The practices of Vipassana – the practice of opening ourselves to all our experiences is especially helpful when dealing with ‘matters of the heart’. We practice purposeful breath – The nine clearing rounds are good for clearing up these ‘heart’ matters.
The Psychological/Mental Benefits of the Fire Phase of Yin Yoga
"The health of our body/mind is directly related to our state of mind. With attention and intention and Breath we can clear past traumas – held in the body as physical trauma or in the deep fascia/tissues and stored as deep samskaras (schemas). Schemas are long held negative beliefs formed from events in our lives, primarily unconscious, from which many of our decisions are made.These schemas can affect even the basic architecture of the body/mind. Certainly they impact our emotional lives. With stillness and intention, we can elevate these long held beliefs to our awareness and choose to change these beliefs, we have the opportunity to change them.....We are not our thoughts......yet what we think becomes states of ease and /or disease in our body mind. Everything thought we are thinking is creating our future and it is only a thought and a thought can be changed" Louise Hay
As we learn to sit in stillness we calm our body/mind. We learn a more mindful present moment focus. As we practice vippasana, mindfulness and breath we teach and train our mind to concentrate on that which is healing. The mind cannot be controlled but we can learn to divert its attention and direct it to healing experiences. Training our mind allows us to become more responsive, less reactive to our daily lives. A deep yin practice makes joints more flexible and we will be able to sit much longer in meditation before chi stagnation.“The practice of yin yoga culminates in the ability to comfortable sit in an upright posture for an extended period of time. Until we can do this, our ability to go deep in meditation will be hindered” Paul Grilley. Patanjali two thousand years before stated that learning to sit was one of the essential skills a Yogi must develop. Practicing the Fire Phase Yin will allow us to ‘open our hearts’, be active, alive, and full of vitality. “When heart chi is healthy, we feel warm, nourished, and nourishing, able to contact innate joy, inner peace, and harmony, and able to build healthy relationships.” – Sarah Powers In opening the heart, and activating the Heart and Small Intestine Meridians, we will balance these systems and when balanced we have ‘access to our intrinsic happiness and are able to bear witness to and intimately relate with all side of life, whether we find ourselves in Hades or Heaven”- Sarah Powers We learn to open ourselves to experiences, enjoy being in the flow of life, with purpose and meaning.The Heart and Small Intestines represent these qualities energetically and opening these channels of energy in the body, we can confidently experience these in our daily lives…….
Sarah Powers – Insight Yoga
Paul Grilley – Yin Yoga: Principles and Practices
Bernie C. Clark – Vinyoga
Kellie Adkins, M. Sc., ERYT, CYTher.
Patanjali – The Yoga Sutras
Louise Hay – You Can Heal Your Life
Dr. Motoyama – Meridian Theory