Yin: A Practice of Truing the Body

When I was a small kiddo, my sister and I were dropped into dance classes. Very quickly I became fascinated at what the human body was capable of doing. These little humans (the same age as me) could flip and twirl and MOVE their bodies in ways I had never even thought of attempting. That fascination has led me by the hand throughout life. Just recently, I enrolled in a throwing workshop. When I told one of my friends about it, she perked up excitedly and said “Cool! A pottery class?” Nope. A martial arts workshop utilizing physics to throw humans with very little effort. Nevermind that I had absolutely no experience in throwing anything, made of clay or bones. For me, the intrigue was in learning new ways to move my body. It was exhilarating. I’d attempt a throw maybe 3-10 times incorrectly. It would feel awkward, heavy and clunky, like a wheel out of alignment. Then, something would change! All the bones and joints would line up. The mind and breath would line up and the result was efficiency. I found that my 5’6”, 120 pounds of human could throw my 6’4”, 190 pound friend in an arc across the floor. You know those moments, you’ve had them in yoga classes. When the struggle for a particular shape you’ve been working on for days, weeks, years even, becomes so efficient the pose seems to support itself. There’s a timelessness there. A spaciousness. A chance to experience the whole self as an entire unit working together in perfect harmony. For the record, much of my practice is not made up of these moments. These are the precious gems, the glimpses into what is possible. I had a mindfulness teacher once talk about the concepts of dukkha and sukha in a way that I finally understood. Before then, I had heard them mentioned in yoga classes, defined broadly as suffering and sweetness. This man talked about dukkha as a wheel that’s not trued. It clunks and doesn’t roll evenly, causing uneven wear and tear. He then defined sukha as a perfectly trued bicycle wheel, everything in alignment and flowing in harmony. For me, Yin is the practice of truing the body. When we work with the connective tissue, we begin to work with the bones and joints and how they line up. We discover long-held patterns of tension that contribute to our body’s inefficiency. Inefficiency in both movement and functionality. When we apply the tools of breath and awareness, those patterns literally melt and shift and change. And, it’s discernible! You can feel things shift and change and release and it feels really, really good. No matter that I jump at the opportunity to learn new inversions, that I will drop anything to attend an Arfo-Cuban hip hop dance class, or that I consistently geek out about new martial art forms and become sorta obsessed with them. Truth is, I will always come home to Yin. It does wonders for the body, yes. But even more importantly, in these times of active resistance, it offers a deep refuge for the spirit and mind. A place to restore and replenish through ancient Taoist practices clothed in modern yogi threads. It seems this practice is needed more then ever, and there is a rich sukha for me in sharing something that has been so profound and meaningful. Looking forward to tasting the nectar with the honeybees in the Hive next month.

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