by Ishvari Belanger You already know this – the importance of letting go and relaxing. When you access the deep mind-body of relaxation, you will easily accept and embrace life as it is.
Too often, we set the intention to relax and put the body in a restorative posture, but we keep the mind in the shape of tension. We cling to our opinions or expectations, but never fully sink in. We've loosened up the body, but the mind is still holding stressful patterns, still running anxious thoughts, and ruminating on the past; The nervous system remains in a state of subtle stress. Our bodies are designed to handle stress in small doses, as a survival tactic, but accumulated stress over time takes a major physical and mental toll on our health.
Our bodies are incredibly intelligent, they are just magnificent really. But the nervous system has this…flaw? That's how I think of it, although I'm sure there's some intelligent design for it that I just don't understand. The nervous system can't perceive the difference between an actual threat to the body and a threat we fabricate in our minds.
If I am having a heated conversation with someone and I'm feeling threatened, the body goes into the sympathetic nervous system, it jumps into this fight/flight/freeze response. But later on, after the conversation has ended, the body can't discern between this actual threat and just a memory of it.
So, we’re in our restorative yoga posture but we’re thinking about this heated conversation (or anything stressful), it activates this response in the nervous system, where we switch on this fight/flight/freeze response and the body circulates cortisol and/or adrenaline (stress hormones). Even when we have the best intention to relax, it's not enough to just relax the body. We have to also look at the mind as well! There are many avenues to relax the mind. Meditation, of course, is supportive of calming the mind. Mindfulness and breath-awareness meditation especially. Yoga Nidra, yin and restorative yoga are brilliant because it relaxes the body and the mind concurrently. We can try to tame the mind with our mind, try to prevent thoughts with our thoughts, or we can take a shortcut and move into a deep state of relaxation of the body and mind together.
The body holds our mental patterns, it reacts to our thoughts. In the same way, the mind reacts to the body. We can go deeply into the body, release tension, and watch as it melts away tension in the mind simultaneously.
This is where Yin Yoga comes in.
Because we are such mental beings, It's not enough to just plop ourselves into a reclined posture while scrolling on our phones or bingeing Netflix and expect to feel rejuvenated.
We need ALCHEMY – a deep, intentional, intelligent relaxation of the body to impact the mind. This is the brilliance of yin yoga because it is working so deeply with the body, it naturally impacts the mind. We find a lot of stillness in yin yoga, holding postures for what feels like an incredibly long time, sometimes several minutes and this stillness resonates in our thoughts. Yin Yoga also works with these energetic and emotional points in the body, by working with the meridian and sinew channels. This is the genius of yin yoga as it is an energy medicine and a restorative, relaxation practice at the same time. When we can release all of the noise and garbage we carry around from our emotional, mental and physical bodies together, we become aware of our more essential nature, we’re able to tune in and listen to the heart. We liberate the body from the prison of stress and access our natural state of relaxed well-being. It’s vital for our health to be able to relax and destress. Yin Yoga helps us to alchemize stress into calm so that we can enjoy each moment more freely.