In my last post I said that I would take a couple of days to figure out where I want to go next, rather than just jumping in to another yoga programme. I’ve decided to try out some different forms of yoga so that I can learn a bit more about them and see if they could enhance my regular practice.
Yesterday I was feeling in need of something a bit slower, so I tried a Yin practice on EkhartYoga. Yin is a slower, more passive form of yoga, with poses being held for significantly longer, in this case a few minutes each time. From a mental and emotional perspective, it almost felt like a series of mini meditations. Physically, it was pretty clear that my body needs this kind of practice. The almost permanent ache in my shoulders and upper back (which are permanently tight, probably due to my pretty high baseline of stress and anxiety) almost disappeared, and was reduced to little more than a nagging sensation until I woke up this morning. I did adapt the practice to focus more on that area of the body. In place of a pose which was intended to stretch the feet, but which I found put too much pressure on my knees, I substituted a supine twist. Holding that pose for a few minutes each side felt amazing in my back and shoulders.
This sort of practice is also, I think, excellent for requiring the mind and body to really engage with each other. In a faster yoga flow, it can be easy to switch the mind off in a particular pose if it’s starting to trigger feelings of panic and unease. When a pose is held for several minutes, the mind has to accept and sit with the physical sensations in the body. From there, with sufficient focus on the breath and observing rather than engaging with any negative thoughts, it’s possible to get to a point where you realise that it doesn’t actually feel that bad after all. Admittedly none of the poses in this practice were ones that tend to trigger the worst of those thoughts, but hopefully it’s an approach that with a bit of work can be carried over to those poses.
Circling back to the beginning of the practice, it started with some arm and back movements intended to “feel and enhance the chi” in and around the body. A Google search for “what is chi” comes up with the following definition:
“The circulating life force whose existence and properties are the basis of much Chinese philosophy and medicine.”
Essentially, I think, it is apparently energy that can be increased or decreased, the flow of which can be improved or impeded. Do I think that this is actually A Thing? I don’t know. Rather than try to grapple with the idea during this practice, I put it to one side (rather like the chakras during Revolution) and used that part of the practice more as a moving meditation. I did get to thinking afterwards, though, that these are concepts that I need to explore, even if I do eventually reject them (as I’m really not the sort of person who will just accept what I’m told without questioning it). I then wondered if it’s necessary to be fully on board with these sorts of concepts in order to truly get the most out of practising yoga. The answer I came to is that I don’t think it is. Yoga is a very personal practice and it is surely going to be more beneficial to only include concepts that serve the goal of that practice rather than try to force it to fit into preconceived notions of what a practice “should” be, or to consistently try to grapple with concepts that I don’t click with.
Based on this practice, I will definitely be incorporating some yin yoga into my practice on a regular basis, as well as looking more deeply into the philosophy behind it. I’ll also be adding chi to my growing list of yoga research topics.