Comfortable with Stress?

Shoelace Pose

As my body has gotten stronger, I’ve found a more physical asana practice a little less challenging and a lot more fun. So, it seems fitting that Yin Yoga would show up in my life right now. Two weeks ago, I completed the first segment of my Yin Yoga Teacher Training weekend at the Yoga Loft in Bethlehem. Under the guidance of the amazing Deanna Nagle and Sally Delisle, I gained a huge appreciation for this style of yoga. The foundation in Chinese Medicine and working with the meridians is fascinating. But it was the focus of applying stress to the tendons, fascia, and ligaments that really had me hooked.

One of the bigger lessons we can learn from yoga is how to be less reactive. The physical practice of yoga – putting our bodies in shapes called asanas – is good at teaching this lesson. We come into a posture and it may be challenging or uncomfortable, but we are instructed to stick with it, breathe and notice – unless of course we are feeling true physical pain, not just discomfort.

The same lessons of patience, equanimity, and perseverance can be learned from a meditation practice. Honestly, so far in my journey, this has been the MAIN reason I practice meditation. The ability to sit with the discomfort, boredom, and restlessness of my mind no matter what situation I’m in all come from my meditation practice.

Stress has gotten a bad rap from our overworked and overstimulated society. Yes, chronic stress does damage our whole being. But, not all stress is bad and in-fact, I’ve found that without a good dose of eustress I become dull and may actually have difficulty dealing with challenges when they do show up.

Yin Yoga reminds me a little bit of the yoga I was first introduced to in the mid-90s. That type of yoga was slow-paced, without flows or fancy sequences, and poses were held for a long time. While there are similarities, there are some big differences. I was immediately reminded that no matter how good I think I’ve gotten at having equanimity during challenging situations, I still have work to do!

Yin Yoga pushed me to my limit. Not because I was in danger of hurting myself or because any posture was complicated. I was pushed because of my mind/ego. As the ladies skillfully led us through just a handful of poses, the mental battle was waged within me. I went from blaming the pose to blaming myself for being so stiff to finally blaming myself for not being “good enough.” And then finally, when it all got to be too overwhelming, I just wanted to escape and get out of the pose and even the room!

Honestly, if it hadn’t been a training weekend, I may not have gone back for more. But after the 5 or so Yin practices that weekend, I started to soften. With each class, I started to recognize habits I have with creating drama and stress during situations that are challenging. With each class, I felt safer and less like I had to be in control. And I reaped the benefits of the practice! I slept amazingly well the whole weekend and my body felt more subtle and lighter. I felt at ease and happier overall.

I find myself craving another class and will be making Yin part of my life. Not only do I feel the physical benefits in my body, but I’m reminded of my life journey of learning to surrender and let go. I’m looking forward to the last two segments of this training and to offering Yin Yoga to you in 2020!

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