That was so true for me, until I found yin yoga. An A type personality, for all its connotations for being strong, determined and driven, the flip side of this is; unwavering conscientiousness, perfectionism, working too hard, never stopping, constantly busy, always pushing, always driving. One word: exhausting. My seemingly laid back attitude, my friendly outgoing personality and my adeptness at deflection belies a strong drive and an almost steely determination. And this mask is perfect for me because I am scared of failure and if I do fail, it looks to the world that I didn’t try that hard anyway, and that it doesn’t really matter either.
But then I found yin yoga, or it found me. My first yin class, lucky me, was with Paul Grilley, the Godfather of yin. I came to his yin yoga and anatomy training, not because I had any interest in yin, it was because of his anatomy knowledge and application of this to yoga. I always assumed yin wasn’t for me, slow, restorative, calming, grounding, long held stretches. No thanks. I simply wasn’t interested. I was hooked at that time by the physical, dynamic, strong, powerful challenge of vinyasa yoga. The harder it was, the more I sweated, the more challenging the sequence, the better. But then my first yin class. Wow. Suddenly the meaning of yoga in all its glorious simplicity and the previously elusive ‘easefulness’ landed. The mat became a refuge, a place where I could rest and restore and that overused platitude ‘let go’ took on some meaning. Instead of hating my body because ‘it’ didn’t do the splits, or ‘it’ couldn’t get in to padmasana didn’t matter. Yin showed me and made me understand that every-body is different and you adjust the pose to suit your body, not contort your body (and sometimes break it in the process) to get in to the pose. This, sadly, is a phenomena that continues to elude most students, most teachers and most teacher trainings. There is some distorted belief out there that if you practice enough and dedicate yourself enough to asana then you will be able to contort your body in to any pose. And the irony of this too, is that it feeds in to the belief, underneath most of us, and indeed underneath a huge number of us who turn to yoga, that we are not good enough. That we must improve ourselves and instead of accepting ourselves and where we are at, we strive and struggle to have the perfect pose and have the perfect asana practice. That being in a handstand or being in a pincha mayurasana or peacock or whatever, will somehow make us a better person or somehow makes us happier. Mastering a pose is another thing we can tick of our list of achievements and is a visible confirmation to the world that we are successful. Yin is a practice, which don’t get me wrong, will improve your flexibility, but that is a by product; there no such thing as the perfect pose and there is no such thing as doing a pose wrong. It isn’t about mastering a pose but easing in to it. So with this in mind you are practicing what exactly? breath, stillness, easefulness, acceptance, patience, gratitude, simplicity.
With yin I began to understand my body and understand its limitations, and most importantly to accept it. I came connected to my body. Yin taught me above anything else to listen to what was going on inside. To feel my body, to feel the pose, to experience the experience. And then more; yin isn’t about contracting muscles and burning calories, it is about coming to the floor and relaxing and yielding, and surrendering. It is, dare I say, about doing nothing, BUT it is about being. In world which trumpets busy-ness and doing, and if we aren’t busy somehow we feel guilty or inadequate, yin is a welcome relief; the antithesis of doing, striving, struggling, succeeding, achieving, it is a respite from the constant chatter and onslaught. And in spite of the ‘not doing’, the unravelling, the unknotting, the release, the ‘undoing’ happens. Once we get our ego, our mind out of the way, ironically things start to happen. I lose the desire to achieve and I find a sense of flow in the stillness. I am able to sit with myself. I am able to sit with the good, the bad, the ugly. I don’t run away or hide from myself or distract myself. I have the beginnings of accepting myself. I begin to love myself.
Yin has made me realise that doing nothing is so powerful. That letting things be, and being patient and soft and forgiving and accepting and yielding, and being passive is glorious. We have the illusion that we are in control of our lives, our destiny, but yin shows me that by giving in and allowing and relinquishing control, judgement, expectation, this is where the magic happens. I can start to open and soften and ride the wave. Something greater and bigger then me carries me, supports me, I am not alone but connected. How I did everything changed when I found Yin.