Yin Yoga explained.

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“Why does my body not move the way I want it to?”

To answer this question we will look at our joints. There are many tissues that form a joint: bone, muscle, tendon, ligament, synovial fluid, cartilage, fat, and sacks of fluid called bursae. Sufficient to our purpose we need only consider three of them: Muscle, Connective Tissue and Bone. Each of these tissues has different elastic qualities and each responds differently to the stresses placed upon them by Yoga postures. By learning to feel the differences between these three tissues Yogis can save themselves a great deal of frustration and possible injury.

We begin our analysis by classifying the three tissues according to quality. Muscle is soft; it is the most elastic, and mobile. So Muscle is the most Yang of the three. Bone is hard; it is the least elastic, the least pliable and is immobile. So Bone is the most Yin. Connective Tissue lies between the two extremes.

It is interesting to note that this classification of the Three Tissues remains the same when we examine them not by quality but by location. The muscles are the most external and exposed. They are Yang. The bones are the most internal, the least accessible. They are Yin. The connective tissue lies literally between the two.

Why bother with this analysis? Because Yang tissues should be exercised in a Yang way and Yin tissues should be exercised in Yin way. The characteristics of Yang exercise are rhythm and repetition. The characteristic of Yin exercise is prolonged stasis or stillness. We are all familiar with Yang exercises like running, swimming, and weight training. All of these activities are rhythmic. We alternate the contraction and relaxation of our muscles to run or swim or lift. It would be unproductive to just contract a muscle and hold it until it spasms. It would be equally unproductive to just let a muscle stay relaxed. Healthy muscle requires the rhythmic contraction and relaxation that Yang exercise provides. The rhythm is very important. Indeed, it could be said that it is rhythm that distinguishes exercise from simple manual labor.

Manual labor is rarely of the proper rhythm or of adequate repetition to make a person “feel good”. It is usually a haphazard mix of too much of some movements, not enough of others. This leaves us feeling sore and “kinked” at the end of our labors, not pleasantly perspired and relaxed. In cultures where long days of manual labor are unavoidable Human Beings have responded by making up “Work Songs” and soldiers have invented an endless variety of “Marching Songs”. The purpose of these songs is to create a rhythm to work to. Labor is still labor but it is made more palatable and less destructive by moving, singing and breathing with a rhythm.

Yang exercise is easy to define and identify. It is what we are all familiar with. By contrast Yin exercise seems a contradiction in terms. How can something that is gentle and static even be called “exercise”. One purpose of these articles is to expand our conception of exercise to be more inclusive. Yang exercise is not the only form of exercise.

The characteristic of Yin exercise is stasis or stillness for long periods of time. Yin exercise has a rhythm but it is a much, much longer rhythm than Yang activities like running. A common misinterpretation of Yin stillness is “passive” or “inactive”. But this misconception is due to our cultural bias to muscular, Yang activities. If nothing were happening in Yin exercise then it would indeed be a contradiction in terms. But tissues are being stressed in proper Yin exercise, particularly connective tissue.

The most common example of Yin exercise is traction. If someone’s leg were broken it would not be beneficial to rhythmically pull on the injured area. But gentle, steady, continuous traction might be absolutely necessary for healthy recovery.

An even more common and less dramatic example of the Yin principle of prolonged stasis is orthodontia; braces on our teeth. Teeth are bone anchored in more bone and yet even they respond to the practice of Yin Yoga which we call “braces”. Bone is the ultimate Yin tissue of the body. If we were to exercise our teeth in a Yang way it would be disastrous.

Imagine an enthusiastic body builder taking what she learned from the gym and applying it to her mouth. If she had decided she was going to straighten her crooked teeth by rhythmically wiggling them back and forth in multiple sets it would not be long before her teeth fell out. Yang tissues should be exercised in a Yang way and Yin tissues should be exercised in a Yin way.

We will finish this article with a reminder of the Taoist conceptions of Yin and Yang. When we analyze things we are comparing them to something else. There is no absolute Yin. There is no absolute Yang. If we recall the Tai Ji symbol of spiraling half circles of Black and White we must remember that there is a black dot within the white spiral and a white dot within the black. This is to remind us that when we use language such as “Yang is rhythmic but Yin is not.” that this is not absolutely true. Yin has a rhythm but it is much longer than Yang. Likewise it is not absolutely correct to say “Yang is active but Yin is not.” There is activity in Yin but it is of a different type. It can be tedious to be meticulously accurate in our speech. One of the great benefits of Yin/Yang terminology is that we can express ourselves in terse, memorable ways but always with the understanding that this is not the final word. Like poetry; a deeper analysis might be necessary for different purposes.

To learn more about Paul Grilley, visit his website at www.paulgrilley.com

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Transitions are hard!

Something I have been speaking about at length in class lately is Transitions, or the time between poses.

Each shape we take in class is different from the previous one, which is different to the next one and once we arrive in a pose and settle into the correct alignment, we can usually find some sort of ease or peace, however fleeting that may feel.

We live in a world of goals and moving forward and rushing to the next great thing that we forget or hurry through the transition time of getting to where we want to be. So I have purposely slowed the sequencing down to really feel into how we arrive in a pose, aiming for grace and making it as effortless as possible.

This is a relatively easy thing to accomplish when in a yoga class and you are only focusing on the physical body slowing a movement down to completely experience the journey, but how does that translate to real life?

How do you take what you learn on your mat and apply it to your life when you leave the studio?

I think people have thought I am trying to be funny and make a joke when I mention what I am working on…but it is something I am truly struggling with and worth mentioning. I have a terrible temper when I am driving and before I can even take a step back from my anger and evaluate my reaction, I have honked my horn, opened my window and called someone a F*cking  Wanker or Idiot or Asshole.

My transition time from getting into my car and arriving at my destination is a little lot clunky and ungraceful. After one particularly rude remark on my part, I closed my window and asked myself “Jacqui Rowley, when did you loose your God Damn mind?”

So I have been paying extra special attention to my reactions in class lately. I get irrationally triggered in standing balance work and have found myself silently cussing my beloved teachers for putting me in stupid poses and making me do stupid things that challenge me. I have even wished I had stayed at home because I wasn’t angry when I was at home in my warm bed. I hadn’t failed at anything before stepping on my mat.

Transitions are hard! Whether you are in transition from waking up to having your first cup of coffee, or transitioning from one job or house to another, maybe you are transitioning from being engaged to being married….Whatever your ‘space between’ might be, it can be a challenging time filled with opportunities to learn and fail grow.

Creating a little space in your mind, and by that, I mean a little space between your thoughts, you learn to take a step back and become a better responder as opposed to being a reactor. When you are triggered by a something, try to notice your natural reaction and then give yourself the space to decide how you wish to respond to your reaction. There is certainly a time and a space for getting angry and frustrated, but do you need to respond with anger and frustration every single time you are triggered? And where are you directing that energy? Is it helpful or serving you in a healthy way?

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Give yourself permission to fail, repeatedly, and then come back to trying again, and again, and again…until eventually you have that fleeting feeling of accomplishment. Your success rate will increase if you pay attention to where you are failing.

Keep me posted, I would love to hear what you are working on.

Bandhas.

The Word Bandha means to hold, tighten or bind. These locks have an effect on the flow of prana where various muscles are contracted and controlled in the physical body that retain the circulation of prana in the subtle body.

*Practicing bandhas should be done with the supervision of an experienced teacher.  bandha all The Neck Lock (Jalandhara Bandha)

Jala means a net, a web, a lattice or a mesh. This lock releases energy blocked within the upper chest. It creates space in the upper spine and aids in releasing tension which builds up as a result of mental activity.

1. Sit in an upright position with the palms of your hands resting on your knees.

2. Inhales deeply and hold your breathe.

3. Bend your head forward and draw your chin to your chest  as you contract the throat.

4.Retain the breathe comfortably. Exhale and release the lock. jalandhara bandha

Jalandhara bandha regulates the flow of blood and prana to the heart, the glands in the neck and the head, together with the brain.

If pranayama is not practiced with Jalandhara Bandha, then pressure is felt on the heart, behind the eyes and inside the ear cavity, resulting in light headedness or dizziness.

The Diaphram Lock (Uddiyana Bandha)

This lock stimulates the solar plexus chakra (Manipura). As this is the distribution center for prana throughout the body, this lock improves the flow of prana throughout the body. A gentle Uddiyana Bandha engagement provides powerful structural support for the abdomen, waist and low back. bandha uddiyana bandha 1. Sit upright with your hands on your knees, palms facing down.

2. Exhale deeply, emptying your abdomen and chest.

3. Lift your diaphragm, pulling the organs of the upper abdomen up and back towards the spine. (Imagine the feeling of taking in breathe (Inhaling), but without the actual inhale.

4. Lock the posture and hold while it is comfortable. Release and inhale.

Uddiyana means flying up. The process of this lock is to lift the diaphragm high up into the thorax and to pull the abdominal organs against the back towards the spine. It is said that through this lock, the great bird of prana is forced to fly upward through susumna (the main channel for energy flow inside the spinal column)

It is important to note that this should only be performed at the end of an exhale when breathing is suspended. The cavity created by the lift of the diaphragm gives a gentle massage to the muscles of heart, thereby toning it. This lock exercises the diaphragm and abdominal organs.

* Never attempt this bind on an inhale or at the end of an inhalation: This will put strain on the heart, diaphragm and eyes.

The Root Lock (Mulabandha)

This is the most complex of the locks. It has a powerful effect on the energies at the base of the spine . If the body is viewed as a container with energy both entering and leaving, then the amount of energy can be increased by closing the bottom of the container through Mulabandha. This bandha strengthens the abdominal floor, providing support for the reproductive organs.

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1. Sit up straight with hands facing down on your knees.

2. Inhale deeply. Contract the muscles at your perineum and draw them upwards.

3. Draw the lower abdomen towards the spine.

4. Hold the lock while comfortable. Release and exhale.

Mula means root, source, origin or foundation. Mula bandha is the region between the anus and genitalia.  By contracting this region, Apana Vayu (the prana in the lower abdomen which moves downward), is made to flow in an upward direction to unite with Prana Vayu (the prana in the region of the chest, which moves upward)

First attempt this lock after inhalation, where the entire region of the lower abdomen (between the naval and the anus) is contracted toward the spine and drawn up toward the diaphragm.

*Note: Uddiyana Bandha is the upper abdomen lifting up and the Mulabandha is the lower abdomen lifting up.

The practice of contracting Asvini Mudra (in the diagram above it is spelled Ashwini), helps one to master Mulabandha.

Traveling Ramen.

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I saw this recipe on a website the other day and I wanted to make sure I had it saved in my personal favorites.

I have tried this recipe a couple of times and it never disappoints.

What you will need:

*A pot with a lid

*1 handful of dried noodles

*1 handful of mixed asian veg

*1 handful of left-over cooked chicken / cooked prawns / tofu

*Half handful of bean sprouts

*1 spring onion

*1tsp fresh or dried coriander

*1tsp hot sauce (I like Sriacha)

*1tsp miso paste

*1tsp bouillon/stock powder (I use half the packet of stock that comes with my Ramen noodles)

*1tsp tom yum paste (I couldn’t find this, so I used Red Curry paste instead)

*1tbsp soy sauce

*I always add a generous amount of fresh sliced ginger for an immune boost.

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Cook your noodles according to the package.

When they’re done, place them into the bottom of your pot.

While the noodles cool, make your taste paste:

In a small bowl mix together your miso, bouillon, soy, tom yum paste, as much hot sauce as you like. Even if you don’t like spicy, add a little as it gives the soup a great bite and boosts your metabolism.

When your pots are nice and chilled, add your sauce.

Pile in your chosen meat. (make sure it’s cooked)

Pack in a handful of sliced veg and bean sprouts.

Bean sprouts are warriors in the nutrition world! Bursting with vitamin C & B and protein. So be generous!

Top with sliced spring onion.

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Sprinkle in your coriander

And you’re done!

Place the lid on your pot and place in the fridge until you are ready to eat. These are great to make the night before and take to work.

When you’re ready to eat, boil the kettle and open your pot.

Pour boiling water in, until the top veggies are swimming.

Seal the pot and leave it for a couple of minutes.

When you can’t wait anymore, mix it up and chow down.

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