Yin Yoga - Metal Phase
Supplemental practices: The Fourth Pillar of Mindfulness: Mindspace, Ton glen practice: Inviting Courage and Pranayama: Nadi Shodhana
I once worked with a Pain Management Specialist (Dr. Mary O'Brien - The Institute of Natural Resources) - During her lecture, she provided profound information and advice for treating our body/mind. Her words are so relevant to our ongoing study and research of the therapeutic benefits of our Yoga Practice and I find myself returning to it over and over again - not only for myself but for others in pain and in need/desire of profound and radical healing in their body/minds. Her lecture and words affirmed and validated my Yoga practice and the way I treat and approach others in need of healing. They strengthen my belief in the efficacy and simple, elegant power of our Yoga practices.
Pain is pain is pain - Emotional, Mental and Physical Pain are all the same to the body/mind. The body/mind is connected. It is not a separate set of systems that work independently. Remember when someone suggested to you that 'it was all in your head"? Well it is.....all our thoughts, emotions, behaviors and body sensations and so called 'dis-ease' are a result of a a body/mind working in concert, playing out in our brains throughout our central nervous systems and throughout the rest of the body. We can do much to effect change and healing in our body/mind. Dedication, practice, radical self care. Self care is the one need no one can afford to ignore.
Radical Self Care is the practice of approaching our body/mind and treating ourselves holistically - considering body, mind, emotions and spirit. Yin Yoga is a practice which 'treats' the entire systems of the body: Therapeutic assnas which when done in concert impact the entire targeted fascia system, joints, ligaments, tendons and the major meridians (energy channels) and the Organ Systems with which they correspond. The breathing exercises and mindfulness practices teach stillness, and an observing mind and the way to bring Attention to our bodies with Intention. "Where Attention goes, energy flows" - Sarah Powers
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 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
We are instructed and led to bring our bodies into poses (asanas) so that we might know our body/mind better and through the poses, with stillness, time, pranyama (breath practices) and specific meditative practices, 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-judgement 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, and fascia. Stillness, time and the appropriate ‘edge’ 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, their respective Meridian Channels and the corresponding Energetic qualities as they are taught and practiced utilizing Five Element Chinese Medicine, Taoists 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.
Specifically, The Metal Phase Yin practice is designed to target the Lung and Large Intestine Organ Systems and the Meridian Pairs that run through and enervate them. The Lung and large intestines Meridian pairs run through the abdomen, through the lung and large intestine in the upper chest area and out through the inner and outer arms. The Yin poses that tug on these meridian lines are those that affect the shoulders, arms, neck and wrists along with opening up and creating space in the chest area and upper back. Therapeutic benefits include easing breathing problems (especially for those with poor postural habits that impact breathing), the curvature, rounding of the spine called kyphosis - most common in women, 'frozen' shoulder and carpel tunnel (especially those poses involving the wrists joints). The Metal Phase Yin sequence - as with all our Yoga practices - can increase lymphatic drainage and circulation. Because the Metal Phase Yin targets the upper body, chest and shoulders, the lymphatic and circulatory systems get a boost from this gently, stimulating sequence. Lymph tissue has no pump like our circulatory systems has the heart, it requires our body movement to support the drainage activity so important to overall healthy immune system functioning and overall well-being. The energetic qualities of the lung and large intestines are found in their ability to take in that which is life giving (oxygen, food) and releasing the carbon dioxide and waste no longer necessary to our systems. The corresponding emotional qualities and needs are the same: learn to take in that which is life giving and vital to our overall healthy functioning, release that which is no longer needed and produce qualities of character like strength and courage. Because of this, the emotional work of this phase is grief: any loss and we are going through a metal phase - and have the choice to focus on that which is life giving and important (precious) and to learn to let go of that which we no longer need or can no longer have. The Metal Phase in our lives is later adulthood where we have experienced much of life and need to process these events and emotions to come to peace with ourselves, our lives and that which is important. The serenity prayer comes to mind here. As well as Deepak's statement, "if we were to succeed in holding onto our lives as they are we would only succeed in mummifying ourselves". Enervating and tugging on the Meridian lines of the Metal Phase (Lung and Large Intestine) allows us to get into our bodies and work through the body/mind connection and restore balance to our entire body/mind.
While in the Metal Phase Yin poses, we can practice bringing our attention with Intention and powerfully improve our body/mind healing. The Mindful and Breathing practices suggested by Kellie Adkins, The Wisdom Method are: The Fourth Pillar of Mindfulness - Mindspace, the Ton Glen practice of inviting courage and Nodi Shodhana breath practice. The Fourth Pillar of Mindfulness is about accepting, observing and experience all things in our awareness and beyond without judgment. We learn in our mindfulness practices to develop an observer mind to our breath, body sensations, emotions, mind stuff, habits, pain, suffering, experiences, spiritual feelings and accepting all these things without need to edit, change or understand the experience. In this meditation we form the ability to experience without reacting, in fact, learning to observe our reactions without needing to change it. One can see how well this Mindfulness practice works with our Metal Phase Yin - we experience life we learn to invite all in and accept that grief and loss are an essential part of life.
Ton Glen means giving and taking and in this exercise we allow ourselves to experience pure relaxation and acceptance of our natural state as well as complete open awareness, we then invite a difficult emotion with which we are struggling in to our awareness, we then meditate on it's opposite (that which would heal that emotion) and then letting it go - sending it out - to all those who similarly struggle. This can be hard for us - since our natural tendency is to avoid 'bad' feelings. However, in our Yin practice we learn both in body and mind to stay with our pain, experience it, accept it and learn to go toward it, therefore finding Courage and Strength perhaps we did not even know we had.
A lovely breath practice that can also supplement our Yin Metal Phase asana is Nodi Shodhana - Alternate Nostril Breathing which is said to balance our right, left and center Meridian, energetic channels. The practice will clear ones sinuses and improve breath, depth, length and control. When we learn to control the breath, we can control the body and thence our emotions.
I return once again to some of the lessons learned from Dr. Mary O'Brien which so completely compliment our Yoga practices. Indeed, a natural consequence of our practices is to experience a deeper connection to ourselves and therefore a willingness and ability to take care of our mind/body life never before............
Sleep - good sleep hygiene: Go to sleep with the sun and rise with the sun: The practice of Yoga - especially Yin Yoga - will encourage relaxation and therefore improve sleep.
Eat like food is medicine or poison - it is. For more on this check out Ayurveda practices (The Sister science to Yoga known as the Science of Life). Yin Yoga - while working on the connective tissues of the body, does also affect the major Organ Systems of the body - improves circulation, creates and allows for more space, better posture and flexibility, improved immune system and a healthy digestion and elimination process. The practice of Yin will produce a person more in touch with their body/mind and desire to maintain and 'feed' it.
Move - I would add move Breath and Body - mindfully. This is one of the many places where our Yoga both Yin/Yang and its complementary Breath practices can make a powerful difference. Yin Yoga offers the body a chance to move, improve flexibility and range of motion and learn to manage and focus our breath for body/mind healing. "Genes activities are responsive to lifestyle choices. Improving diet, exercise, and sleep creates positive changes in genetic output" - Deepak Chopra.
Prayer and Meditation: Our Yin practice is often supplemented by and certainly enhanced by the Mindfulness practice: Mantras, Ton glen Mindful Practices, Repetitive Prayers, Meditation and Yoga Nidra's are examples of this set of practices. "Genes respond to meditation, and the changes involved can be incredibly fast acting. Meditation and others contemplative practices seem to influence the biological aging process in cells. Signs of this benefit are optimal with long-term practice, but changes can occur even when someone meditates for the first time" - Deepak Chopra:
Change Your Thinking - Mistaken, limiting beliefs, mental habits, schemas, samscaras, conditioning, all these habits of mind produce our emotions, thought lives, behaviors, bodily sensations and dis-ease in our body........"Every thought we are thinking is creating our future and it is only a thought and a thought can be changed" Louise Hay. Yoga of Body/Mind powerfully addresses this issue. In mindful practices, we bring Attention to our mind habits, we learn to become an observer of our thoughts, our mental patterns, bring self awareness and non-judgment to these thoughts, so that we may Intentionally choose your next thoughts.......These will create your future. " Mind is the key. Moment by moment, second by second, you can't make a single choice or decision, except through the mind. And every thought, it turns out, is actually a decision. Each mental event gets translated into a bodily change, via the brain as the mind's physical processor, and each message is either positive or negative" "It has taken medical technology, 'hard' science to support this conclusion, but it is becoming incontrovertible. "Right down to the genetic level, your mind is telling your body how to live" - Deepak Chopra..
"If you want to see what your thoughts were like yesterday, look at your body today. If you want to see what your body will be like tomorrow, look at your thoughts and feelings today. Pay attention to how you are reacting to your world" These words by Deepak Chopra clearly point out the crucial benefits of committing to healthy lifestyle practices. Our Yoga of body/mind practices address all the aforementioned practices.
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