Yin and nourishment are synonymous in a time of constant “productivity” and forward motion. Silence and stillness embody the mystical practice of yin and act as healers to the human layers of body, mind, and spirit. Ultimately, the nourishing factor interconnects simultaneously between these 3 levels:
The physical intention of yin is to hold a specific shape at your appropriate depth for an extended period of time, which is about 3-7 minutes. This gives the body opportunity to settle into itself, like the wood floors of a freshly-built home.
Connective tissue, a film that envelopes every fiber of your internal structural, reacts to the prolonged pose by tugging in various directions with the assistance of gravity. It is also the bones, cartilage and tendons that keep the body together. The elongated hold catalyzes a future enhancement of flexibility, mobility and elasticity around the joints when the practitioner returns to motion.
Most importantly, Yin touches viscerally. One of yin’s many components is depth. In this case, organ health is the emphasis of sequencing. Without getting too thorough in explanation, there are five major yin organs: the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs and spleen. In Chinese medicine, the concept of long holds is to open energy channels, allowing healthy and beneficial energetic flow to the various organ systems. Think of it as a river once obstructed by debris that has had recent rainfall, causing debris to collect at the side. This enables the water to flow even more effortlessly downstream. In the Western scientific model, it allows for increased perfusion, or oxygen/carbon dioxide, exchange, within the tissues.
The “yin” part of the nervous system is parasympathetic, or rest and digest mode. Have you ever been so relaxed in savasana or another pose that your belly starts to gurgle? Wonderful! You have elicited the complete OPPOSITE of fight or flight mode. This by nature allows the adrenals a break from releasing constant cortisol and all of those other lovely hormones that keep us pumping through our ever-rushing daily lives.
Silence and stillness allows for a void where there is ordinarily stimulation. Phones, computer screens, billboards and radio ads bombard our sensory receptors far too regularly. Having separation from this allows for a sense of peace and calm in the mind, or at least a quieting. It is not ordinary or typical that we bid our bodies and minds a vacation from all of this hubbub. In fact, the calm can go as deep as yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, which is a point between wakefulness and sleep.
Its meditative properties provide you an opportunity to learn acceptance of physical sensations, as opposed to aligning an emotion with that sensation. That is not to say that emotions will not come up. They do, and sometimes very explosively and even more so than in a yang class. The practitioner learns to manage his or her feelings, allowing them to come to the surface. This is the nourishment of the mind.
After participating in a yin class, one may find a clearing in their spirit. Sleep becomes sounder, a general calming affect may be exuded. It is the culmination of the physical and mental properties that resolve for a softer spirit. Intentions in yin are for passivity, tolerance, and embrace of one’s circumstance. The path one leads is a direct result of what is routinely consumed. It is easy to be led astray in productivity of our predominantly “yang” society. If one’s life contains a heaping portion of yin, in theory the reality manifested will be a nourishing one.
Yin and nourishment, to me, are synonymous. In our fast-paced lifestyle, stopping is imperative for balance in the body, mind, and spirit. Make it a priority to gift yourself much needed downtime.
Written by Jen Ryan RYT, RN
Jennifer Ryan, RYT, RN, has practiced and taught yin for what feels like lifetimes. The stillness and silence is her lifeline for self-care from a high-intensity nursing career. In addition to yin, Jennifer looks forward to a prenatal yoga certification over the summer. She enjoys spending time by the Perkiomen Creek on the trail; her local CSA and its derivative meals; gallivanting across the globe to places like India and Peru; learning to oblivion; and, dancing to records late at night. Sharing ancient wisdoms and modern tactics is what she considers most rewarding in her care giving professions.