Without the dark of night, the rising of the moon, we would certainly burn.
It would be dramatic, a firey, hot flare -- passionate, vibrant, flashy to the last drop.
But then, it would be over.
So too is it with the energetics of being alive.
Without rest, we cannot function. It replenishes our bodies, minds, and spirits to fuel us through our days, to keep us focused and aligned and present. Whether it be sleep, a pause with your beloved to sit and be, a moment with a teacup and a deep breath, we all need rest.
Our yoga practice is not exempt from this need for balance.
I started my yoga career as a true Vinyasa yogi. Give me as many chatturangas as you can, or I haven't really practiced. KnowwhatImean?
In our very vibrant and ever-moving lives, we often crave the flow and movement of a strong Vinyasa class. And it certainly brings its gifts -- stress reduction, tension release, and stretching out the muscles that carry us through our various daily chores. For those who are of the Fire Element, a vigorous practice can burn off some excess energy that we may feel a bit more at ease.
But even Fire people need balance. Maybe even more so. And I'm so grateful I found Yin early in my practice.
Yang Flow - things like a Vinyasa or Astanga practice, which move steadily through a series of flows or postures - builds heat, or tapas, in our bodies and muscles. It builds strong, elongated muscles, and invigorates the flow of prana and moves stagnant energy or emotion in the body.
And this is necessary, and beautiful.
But it is just as beneficial to meet floor-based postures in stillness, and allow the body to slowly, gently stretch into the ligaments, tendons, and connective tissues that run through the entire body. It isn't safe to do so in a flow, since these tissues have significantly less capacity to stretch than muscle fibers and are thus easier to injure. But in a supported, floor-based practice?
It's pure honey.
What's more, Yin offers us another space of meditation. For many (myself included), the Flow practice is a time to explore embodied meditation in such a way that the mind's endless chatter is overridden. There's no space for distraction, or you'll end up in an uncomfortable pile on the floor.
Instead, Yin is an invitation to stay present with whatever arises in stillness. This is a different way of building tapas through discipline: sitting in the posture for 5-7 minutes and merely witnessing the shifts in sensation, thought, and experience.
In doing so, we start to notice: sensation, thought, tension, they rise and then... they dissipate.
As long as the yogi keeps breathing, keeps softening, and focuses on fully being embodied, it is all ephemeral. It's something I think we can only really notice in stillness, when we have the space to notice the passing of time... and notice that through it all, we can return again and again to the simplicity of here and now.
It's a tingling in the fingers. It will pass.
The mind gets hung up on some thought pattern. Eventually, it will pass.
The chest is contracted in reaction to sensation. In a few breaths, it will pass.
And we roll up our mats refreshed, renewed, balanced. Ready to step out into our Yang world from a place of ground and center.