Thursday, 17 July 2014

Harnessing Yin - some practical exercises

How do you harness Yin? By becoming it... stopping, yielding, finding fluidity, stillness... being aware of the Earth, substance, water... and above all, practising self-nourishment. Here are some physical and meditative exercises that you can try these ideas out with...

I recommend finding a place to practice that you enjoy, outside if possible, and barefoot if you can. Wearing some Yin clothing might help too, something flowing, that responds easily to your movement.

Waking up the body and connecting to the Earth through the Conception Vessel

The first exercise is a warm-up, helping you connect with one of the Yin extra-ordinary vessels in shiatsu, called Ren Mai or the Conception Vessel. It runs from the chin down to the pelvis, and can be felt as a band as well as points in a straight line down the centre of the body. Have a look at the video first...

This exercise comes from womb yoga created by Uma Dinsmore Tuli, combined with shiatsu 
practices of the extra-ordinary vessels as developed by Suzanne Yates... as well as connecting 
with the Conception Vessel by stroking the front of the body, this exercise stretches and 
stimulates the opening and coupled points for some of the Yin extra-ordinary vessels in the 
hands and wrists: L7 (for CV), P6 (for PV). In womb yoga these hand gestures include 
"mothering lotus" and "yoni mudra". More about how I use the extra-ordinary vessels and 
womb yoga as mutually sustaining practices in future posts...

Standing exercise
Feel your feet on the earth, and separate your toes. Be aware of the connection between the outside corner of your heel and the ground... be aware of the outside edge of your foot and the ground, from the outside corner of the heel to the little toe... then maintaining these connections, also be aware of your big toe on the ground... if you know K1, then be aware of its connection to the ground too.

Have your hands palms together in front of your heart.

Maintain this position, and listen to the response in your legs, your pelvis, your spine and your head.

Then whenever you wish, start stroking down the front of your body, perhaps making contact or at a little distance away from the body. Then come as far down to the ground as you wish, then lift your arms up, stand and return your hands back to your heart.

You may like to give a little "thanks" to the ground as you come close or touch it, for the beautiful planet we live on.

Sitting exercise
Find a comfortable sitting position, I suggest using blocks, or a bump in the sand or grass wherever you are, so that your hips are above your knees. This makes the position more sustainable and reduces pressure on your knees, hips and ankles.

Join your palms together at the level of your heart. Then stroke down the front of the body, making contact or a little distance away from the body, down to the lower belly or pubic bone, then lift your hands up to your mouth, perhaps brushing your lips with your fingertips before you come down again.

Try this as many times as you like... it may take a minute or so before you start to feel it, so be patient and don't try too hard, let it happen almost by itself...

Allowing your body to be supported... leaning and using the wall

Sometimes it is the hardest thing to ask for help. In your shiatsu and yoga practice, leaning is a gentle way of opening yourself to feeling physically supported. Walls can be really useful for developing your strength and balance, and they are also fantastic for resting...

Have a blanket or two underneath your hips if this suits you and rest your hands on the midline, Conception Vessel, wherever is comfortable for you. As well as a meditation, this may help tired or puffy legs if you have been sitting, driving or standing for a long time. If you are newly pregnant, it can be a good way to connect with your baby and rest.

You can use this to help prepare for handstands. Start by saying something open-minded and positive to yourself, such as "I'll give this a go and see what happens" :-) Then on all 4s have your feet by the skirting board, then walk up the wall, pressing your feet firmly into the wall. Perhaps use chalk on your feet and hands to stop from slipping. Breath gently.

This may help slow your breath and also stretches the back of the leg... have the front knee against or close to the wall, one hand on the wall at chest level, the other hand on the wall above your head. The stretch in the back leg is gentle, don't do it if it hurts, and stop if you feel faint. To rest after this, turn your back to the wall and lean, enjoy the support!

Holding the ancestral connection to our heart

This is a meditation on the Penetrating Vessel, that links the heart to the reproductive organs and the ancestral "Life Gate" or Mingmen Du4 in the lower back. I find this helpful for women with issues of menstruation or childbirth, whether recent or a long-time ago, and for men with lower back pain, working with fertility and anxiety.


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