Yoga as a Way of Life
Yoga is an ancient art form, medicine and way of life. It is the practice of unifying and purifying the body, mind and spirit. Yoga offers a vehicle for self-knowledge, an opportunity to become acquainted with our essential nature inside the body and the breath, and outside of the conditioning, programming, identity-clinging and cultural sway that hovers around us. Yoga invites us to become curious about the nature of our being, to seek awareness and to ultimately move into harmonious acceptance of What Is and Who We Are, here and now, in this moment.
Among the many styles of yoga, yin yoga is the distinguished feminine expression of yoga, a practice focused on deeply stretching the muscles and tissues through a gentle, sustained practice that releases tightness from the physical and emotional body. Rather than using willpower to effort through a heated practice, yin yoga involves a deeper, slower process of sustained stretching poses that invoke the power of surrender and yielding as a pathway to transformation.
Yin yoga works to relieve mental, physical and emotional tension by targeting the body’s fascia system, the connective tissue that encases all our muscles, bones and organs, and carries important messages throughout the body. Connective tissue responds best to slow, long holds. For this reason, during yin practice each pose is held between 2-5 minutes, inviting a deep journey into stillness wherein a subtle magic occurs as the body’s fascia begins to soften. The result is a felt sense of deep relaxation and expansion both physically and emotionally.
Yin practice is an excellent tool for regaining emotional balance, rejuvenating the senses, and strengthening one’s mediation practice, as it requires presence with the breath and sinking into stillness, gently teaching the qualities of patience, presence, acceptance, and surrender.
Along the Fascia Lines: Yin Yoga and TCM
Recent studies by Tom Myers reveal that Chinese meridians run directly along the fascia lines, identifying the integral link between yin yoga and TCM. When stretching the fascia planes during yin yoga, we systematically activate and balance energy along the 14 major meridians points, each of which is targeted by certain postures. Stretching and balancing the meridian points not only improves healthy functioning of the localized areas and joints, but also nourishes the associated organs connected to each pathway.
The Historical Connection Between Yin Yoga and TCM
Yin yoga approaches yoga as a healing journey, and has deep roots in the history of Chinese Medicine, originating from Dao Yin in ancient China. As the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine (written circa 400 BC) states in the opening paragraph of Chapter 1, which discusses the keys of health and longevity:
“In the past people used to practice the Tao, the Way of Life. They understood the principle of balance, of yin and yang, as represented by the transformation of the energies of the universe. Thus, they formulated practices such as Dao-Yin, an exercise combining stretching, massaging, and breathing to promote energy flow, and meditation to help maintain and harmonise themselves with the universe.”
This ancient text highlights the ancestral origin that modern yin yoga has in Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine, like yoga, is a system, a philosophy and a way of life, that encompasses both preventative medicine techniques, including diet, lifestyle, movement and breath practices, and remedies such as acupuncture and herbs after the onset of disease. The two practices compliment and balance one another to provide an overall system of vitality and vibrant health.