My Personal Expierience in the Wood Phase of Yin Yoga 


As I move through the Wood Phase of Yin Yoga, I become aware of a very real, quite deep anger rising seemingly from my sinews.  Hmmmm?   I breathe in and out and observe shamata (anapanasati), concentration on the experience of the present moment, and let this emotion as with all the others rise and flow through me.....It feels stuck....I breathe in and out and observe vipassana, compassionate arising - observing my body, mind and emotions without participation/judgement, and repeat again and again,  trying to allow the 'calm abiding' and concentration that will allow me more responsiveness less reactivity to my inner life as well as the outer world.......I breathe in and breathe out....As I remain still in these poses, I feel a release in my joints and hips and finally a small bit of relief/release in my emotional life....I realize I am not my thoughts, my feelings....I just am.....

The Wood Phase Yin Yoga is a series of asanas (poses) done on the floor that work to tug at the The Liver and Gallbladder Meridian's. The asanas involve, for me, some of the historically most difficult poses in which to sit.  Cow pose - sitting, legs crossed, knees touching and feet slightly out acts on both these Meridians. It also acts on the larger joints of hip and knee. I feel this.  Learning to sit still through the asana, breathe through this temporary discomfort while practicing compassion towards myself requires concentration and Intention.    I learn to breathe through this temporary discomfort, initially with doubt,  that it will free me of some of the reactivity of this anger that surges through me.  I want confidence that I will learn to modulate my emotions, my thoughts  and stay 'flexible' with regards to myself and others.   As our teacher would say "In the Wood Phase, we learn to modulate intensity and stay flexible, learn to retreat and yield as well as surge forward and be undaunted"   Ahhh, the gift of Yin Yoga - currently it feels like no gift........ I will observe and follow this experience and learn........

Over the last 30 days, in practicing The Wood Phase and revisiting these feelings.  I have learned to remain still and breathe and strengthen my ability to observe my body/mind.  I find some small understanding of what my body/mind is trying to say...  I have felt a quiet confidence in myself.  I have much more work to do...............

So what is this practice about which I am speaking?    The natural healing  therapy of Yin Yoga.

Some definitions are perhaps in order:

Yoga Therapy:  "The application of Yogic principles to a particular person with the objective of achieving a particular spiritual, psychological or physiological goal"    Dr. Richard Miller, Ph.D,  founder of the iRest protocol for Yoga Nidra

"Yoga Therapy recognizes the diversity of experience present in the human condition and the powerful influences of past and present trauma, stage of life, and seasonal contexts within which all human beings are centered"  Kellie Adkins, M.Sc., ERYT, CYTher.

"Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga with postures or asanas that are held for relatively long periods of time - anywhere from three to five minutes or longer.  Yin Yoga asanas are more passive, long-held floor poses that mainly work the lower part of the body - namely the hips, pelvis, inner and outer thighs, and lower spine."  Wikipedia

"Yin Yoga is a style of Taoist Yoga that emphasises 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 needle-less acupuncture"  Sarah Powers  -  We are actively combining yogasana and conscious awareness to effect self healing.

Yin Yoga serves to balance 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 tissues 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, the practice of 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.

In his book Yin Yoga, Principles and Practice, Paul Grilley says Yin Yoga 'is a natural healing practice that cultivates physical ease and mental calm"  He asks the question 'what then will be our contribution to the future? I believe part of the answer is to live noble lives, lives of kindness and tolerance and gratitude and contentment. But none of these things is possible if we are unable to control our impulses and quiet our minds". 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 possibly our World.

The practice of Yin Yoga relies heavily on three primary schools:  1)  The Study of Anatomy - the understanding of the human body, its functions, its movement and life processes.  2)  Taoists Yoga (Taoist Yin) - a series of exercises mainly in lying and sitting positions designed to awaken Ch'i (or prana) which is the internal, primal energy or essence of the body. Tao (the way) emphasizes the way or path to Health.   3)  Meridian Theory - (as brought forward by Dr. Motoyama)  -   Meridians are thought to be 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 is thought to run through these channels.  Yin Yoga was designed to activate Ch'i and move this energy through the Meridians or channels of the entire human body, specifically, the connective tissues.

Yin Yoga:  The Wood Phase Yin Yoga therapeutics emphasizes the flow of vital energy through the body's meridians (energetic channels).  The meridians (nadis) are the channels for our vital energy, our life force.  Over time, this energy can become blocked and cause dis-ease, emotional, physical and mental, and discomfort within the body.  Acupuncture, Pranayama (breath work) and Yin Yoga all act on these energetic channels.  To guide this practice and to ensure effectiveness one needs Attention and Intention.   "Where attention goes,  prana  (chi) flows"  Sarah Powers "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 During the Wood Phase, the Liver and Gallbladder and it's respective Meridians are targeted.  The primary function of the Liver is as a chemical factory taking undigested, unused energy and breaking it down for detoxification. The states of mind associated with The Liver are  drive, determination, purpose and growth while the emotional state most associated with the Liver in balance is Harmony. Where there is liver chi health, there is flexibility and ability to adapt to change.   When there is Liver chi imbalance, we will have confusion, lack of purpose, problems planning and lack of  determination and drive. Emotionally we experience chronic anger or the lack thereof,  mood instability or feeling paralyzed, impulsivity or indecisiveness  defensiveness and irritability.  "When we are chronically angry, we are stressing our liver chi; when liver chi is less functional, we find ourselves getting angry or easily upset. It works both ways"   Sarah Powers The Gallbladder's function is to aid in the digestive process.  It's energetic function is viveca (right discernment).  When there is gallbladder health, there is clarity, right thinking, maintaining equanimity - especially in the face of obstacles. The phrase "they have a lot of gall"  is a popular phrase in our culture which intuitively points to an excess of Gallbladder chi.  Where there is a lack of Gallbladder chi we will experience the opposite, passivity and lack of action. Closing Today I awake early, practice some yoga nidra and sit with my emotions and thoughts. I realize that I am experiencing some mental confusion, know that I have some major decisions to make and am experiencing some trepidation and hesitance as I walk this path.  Upon this reflexion, I decide to work through the Wood Phase YIn asana with the hopes that I may balance my liver and gallbladder chi, finding some stillness, calm, some mental clarity and strength with decisions yet ahead............ Namaste

Kellie Adkins, M. Sc., ERYT, CYTher.
Sarah Powers, Author of Yin and Vinyasa and Insight Yoga
Paul Grilley, Author of Yin Yoga Principles and Practice
Bernie Clark, B.S., author of YinSights and
Dr. Motoyama - The Meridian System - Yin Yoga