Before I had enrolled in my Yoga Teacher Training course, I had no idea that Yin Yoga existed. The only yoga that I’ve ever practiced was at my Ashram and at the gym. Usually, I build up a sweat and it feels like a workout.
Upon studying Anatomy and getting acquainted to parts of the body other than the muscles such as connective tissue and fascia, I realized the importance of restorative practices such as Yin. The more I practiced this ancient form of yoga, the more I fell in love with it.
For my Yin assessment exam, I chose to focus on the stomach meridian. Because the tummy is where we store emotions, it felt apt to bring focus and attention to it.
Yin is a Chinese concept that emphasizes the meridians or energy channels throughout the body and the uses we have for each. Yin is the opposite of Yang. Yang being the faster active energy and yin being slow and gentle.
A Yin class for me is always dreamy and relaxing. It is the most calming type of yoga that I have ever experienced. It is the type of thing you need post trauma, during injury or if you’ve had a long hard day.
I always start my classes with a meditation to clear the mind and to bring everyone into the here and now. I used the following technique:
Sit comfortably. Rest your hands on your knees with the palms facing up. Ready to receive. Close your eyes and listen to your breath. Back erect, lengthening the neck, chin level, shoulders relaxed, belly to the spine. Inhale deeply, slowly and gently. Exhale it all out. Inhale deeply, slowly and gently. Exhale it all out. Take your focus to your navel. This is your sun center. Feel warmth being generated in your solar plexus. Breath easily, deeply and gently. Inhale deeply, slowly and gently. Exhale it all out. Spread the warmth from your Manipura Chakra throughout your body. Fill every single cell with warmth. Your belly is a super special place especially for a woman. It is the place of birth and it is also the home to your emotions. Radiate warmth from deep within your tummy and let it spread throughout the body. Breath easily, deeply and gently. Inhale deeply, slowly and gently. Exhale it all out. Feel the warmth.
Yin Yoga improves our energy flow and by holding postures for an extended period of time, we enable our Qi, which is our basic life force, to flow freely throughout the energy channels of our body. These energy channels are known as meridians, similarly to that of the nadis. We have 14 main meridians and today our focus is on the Stomach Meridian.
The stomach meridian starts on the cheek below the pupil and descends beneath the cheekbone and lateral corner of the mouth. It travels along the angle of the jaw and ascends to the lateral anterior hairline. It moves from the corner of the jaw down the side of the neck. It crosses to the mid-clavicle and descends to the 5th intercostal space and runs down the midline from the lower abdomen. It runs down the lateral side of the leg to the lateral tip of the second toe. Take your focus back to the breath and bring your left hand to your heart and place your right hand on your belly. Today we will start our Yin Flow with one chant of Om. Keep your eyes closed, breath deeply to prepare. Om. You may open your eyes.
We then proceeded to engage in the following postures designed to stimulate the stomach meridian and release any pent up tension there:
In Yin Yoga, we work on the fascia and connective tissues and therefore it is important to note that we need to keep our muscles relaxed.
The stomach meridian is related to the Earth element. When the Earth element is balanced, we are centered and stable.
Tadpole with a Twist (Right)
A balanced stomach qui allows us to feel at home within ourselves. Find ease in the discomfort of finding your way back home.
Tadpole with a Twist (Left)
In Yin Yoga, we do not use the body to get into a pose. We use a pose to get into the body.
The stomach is directly connected to digestion. Not only to the digestion of food but also that of experiences. When the stomach medians are open and balanced, we feel stable, secure and have a sense of stillness.
The stomach meridian is the meridian of feeling happy about digesting one's life fully. Feeling trust, abundance, contentment, fulfilled and satisfied with self and others. This is the sense of having our expectations met and that life is enough for us.
Dragon Pose (Right)
Dragon Pose (Left)
Supported Fish Pose
Yin Yoga originated from the ancient Taoist health practices, philosophy, and spiritual traditions of China. Being in harmony with the rhythm and flow of nature is the essence of a Taoist attitude. Let's be mindful of that today. Feel the harmony of being in sync with the natural rhythm and flow of nature, our mother Earth.
Find your edge and ease into it.
We ended the class with the following meditation:
Inhale to feel your belly rise and exhale to feel your belly sink. Focus on your breath and feel the warmth from your sun center flow freely throughout your body. Your Qi is flowing freely through your pathways and aligning your stomach meridian. Feel your energy flow from your right cheek below your right pupil as it descends beneath your right cheekbone and lateral corner of your mouth. Feel it traveling along the angle of your jaw as it ascends to the lateral anterior of your hairline. Feel it move from the corner of your jaw down the side of your neck. Feel it crossing to your mid-clavicle as it descends to your 5th intercostal space as it runs down your midline of your lower abdomen.
Feel it running down the lateral side of your right leg flowing to the lateral tip of your second toe. Bring your attention to your right foot, your left foot, your right leg and your left leg. Focus on your hips and feel the warmth in your tummy. Feel your energy flow from your tummy up and through your chest, your arms, your neck and your head. You are aligned and radiating warmth.
We used aids and props throughout the class such as bolsters and blocks to enable the muscles to relax. Whilst each pose was held for three to five minutes, I gave interesting yin and stomach meridian facts inline with what was being practiced in that moment.
I ended the class with a breathing exercise, which is a pranayama called Nadi Shodhana.
The best feeling is at the end of the class when your students tell you how much they loved it, how it worked for them and how much they needed it. What tops that is when your assessor tells you that you passed your exam.
Filled with gratitude, I am!