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Yin to the Rescue
Written by Kathleen Kraft

Because sometimes seated meditation is boring. Yeah, I know, that's part of the deal with meditation. And "boredom" (What is it, really?) certainly offers a window to the interior landscape, but there are those days when my heart's just not in it, or my heart just needs a prop.

yin photo

I came to Yin seeking a practice that would be a container for stillness—a container without a lid. One that would allow me to settle more deeply. The names were appealing to me as a poet: Sleeping Swan (Pigeon), Half Buttterfly (Head to Knee), Shoelace (Seated Cow Face Pose) and so on. And that's what Yin is: an attentive, creative meditation. Watching the mind shift as my body gradually settles (or resists settling which happens), then shifting my shape again.  It is organic, like swimming in the ocean on a partially cloudy day, not so much seeing as feeling the waves of life.

These poses have different names than in other forms of yoga as they are suggested shapes more so than poses because in Yin the muscles are not engaged; they are relaxed, and so the tendencies of the joints are encouraged. This is good: We spend our daily lives attending outwardly…

It’s a mental shift—engaging the muscles feels good, powerful, strong, but sometimes we need to—no, we have to surrender, receive. This is the permission of Yin.

And the depth. Because as we allow the body to relax, we become more aware of the joints and the connective tissues. Yes, all those hidden areas that need attention—the fascia is a huge storage space, meaning there are a few dusty corners. It can be uncomfortable. The body is the unconscious mind, my teacher says.

So you dive in a little. Emotions bubble to the surface. Uh oh…

But if you surrender and are kind to yourself in the shapes, you might “see” the feeling—it might have color or the absence of color. It might have light, or it might be darkened; it might have a word, but rest assured, all of it is important information in becoming a more flexible person in body and mind. And if you are flexible already, the practice provides a place to explore the more subtle energies of the body.

Which in turn makes the mind more elastic.

As you stay with the practice, you’ll feel a greater range of motion in your muscular practices—in your movement ultimately—like power vinyasa or running or soccer or whatever it is that ignites your inner fire. Yin is the complement to those practices...

We are always practicing, right?

Water, earth—we go to back to our sources in Yin, and grow from there. Gradually.

As a teacher, I feel like I'm in a ‘living museum’ as I watch people settle into their shapes. I see the many interpretations (yay!); I watch them Loosen. Their. Grip. It’s a gift. I reciprocate by creating a space that allows. Well, that is my intention.  

How did you get here?
Close your eyes and surrender.
They are the chosen ones who have surrendered.
The hurt that we embrace becomes joy.

~ Rumi

Kathleen Kraft is a poet and yoga teacher living in Jersey City. She teaches YinLax every Thursday night at 630pm.