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Facing the Tiger Part Two: Yin Yoga for Conquering Fear

Facing the Tiger Part Two: Yin Yoga for Conquering Fear

Part two of Nadine’s post on fear features a Yin yoga practice especially focused on the Kidney Chi which is associated with fear. Find part one of Nadine’s reflections on fear here.

Please remember that if you experience any pins and needles/ numbness in any Yin pose to leave the pose and do some gentle spinal movement like cat/cow or gentle dynamic twists – just something to move the spine before entering the pose again.

Yin yoga to help our fears

Yin yoga works on clearing the Chi through the meridians in the same way the Indian tradition focuses on moving and concentrating the Prana through the nadis and within the subtle body. In Chinese medicine, the meridians have specific energetic, mental, physical and emotional qualities. Any imbalances in the kidney meridians are associated with fear, the fear of letting go and a lack of trust in ourselves and in other people. The kidneys are also associated with willpower and a healthy ambition. All the meridians work in pairs so the Yin Kidney meridian is paired up the with Yang Urinary Bladder meridian. Any imbalances in the Urinary Bladder meridian is connected with the fear of change and an inability to cope with life. When the Chi in these channels is rich, flowing and in balance we experience a sense of self-understanding, wisdom, clear perception, hopeful and looking forward with gentleness. So here follows a short practice for when you feel times are challenging.

Butterfly

  • Set up: from sitting, you can place a foam block or a folded blanket under the sitting bones. This allows the pelvis to tilt forward a little and good if the lower back is tight.
  • Bring soles of your feet together and knees fall out to the sides – so you make a big diamond shape with your legs. This pose is like a big baddha konasana with the feet further away from the groin.
  • You may wish to support under the knees with a bolster or cushions.
  • As you exhale start to fold forward – possibly over support like a bolster or cushions. You may wish to prop a block or a brick under your forehead.
  • Be here for 2 – 5 minutes. Breathe steadily, if the mind starts to wander, gently coax it back to the breath.
  • To come out: gently roll up to sit, place hands under the knees, draw the legs together and straighten out legs.

Sphinx

  • Set up: Lying on your front, you may wish to place a wide, folded blanket under your pelvis/hip bones (or if you feel warm enough you could bypass Sphinx and go straight into Seal).
  • Prop yourself up onto your forearms and double check you have your elbows under your shoulders – sometimes we miss that the elbows are too close in towards the chest and the pose can feel quite uncomfortable. Bring hands in line with the elbows or bring the hands together like in the image.
  • If this angle is too extreme then slide the forearms forward with the elbows wider and the hands resting on the forearms. This will decrease the lift in the chest and reduce the curve to the lumbar spine.
  • You may wish to place support under the rib cage like a bolster or a sturdy cushion.
  • The feet are approximately mat width apart and allow the legs to roll in slightly so heels flop out towards the side of your mat.
  • Be here for 2 – 3 minutes. Feel as though you can breathe from the chest/ sternum area with your chin level to the mat.
  • You could remain here for a further 2 minutes or take the progression into Seal pose as detailed below.
  • To come out: exhale and release forward, make a little pillow for your head and take a rest. Draw legs in closer, toes touching and let heels flop out to the sides of your mat – totally pigeon-toed. Take ten breaths rest.

 

Seal

  • If you wish to move into Seal pose – here goes.
  • Set up: From Sphinx, turn hands out to a 45-degree angle, like little flippers and begin to straighten the arms. The arms become like posts and actually feel quite Yang. Be mindful to not lock the elbows and avoid the shoulders bunching up to the ears. I often take my hands out wider, keeping the heals of my hands on my mat and fingers splaying off to the sides. This can help to make some more space in the chest and the shoulders.
  • Be here for 2 – 4 minutes. Allow the spine to hang like a suspension bridge, the tips of the shoulder blades just releasing down towards the lower back. Feel as though you can breathe from the chest/sternum area with your chin level to the mat.
  • To come out: exhale and release forward, make a little pillow for your head and take a rest. Draw legs in closer, toes touching and let heels flop out to the sides of your mat – totally pigeon-toed. Take ten breaths rest.

Childʼs pose

  • Set up: from lying on your front/keeling, start to bring your hips back towards the heels. You may wish to place a folded blanket under your knees. If the knees feel under pressure, place some support between the hips and the heels, like a cushion or bolster/block. The knees can be slightly apart, keeping toes together.
  • You can make a little pillow out of your arms and hands for your forehead to rest on, or stretch the arms forward. Hands can also be by the feet and you can rest your forehead on something like a block or a book.
  • Be here for 2 -3 minutes. Focus on sending the breath deep into the kidney area – in the lower part of the middle back. If the mind wanders, guide the awareness back to the journey of the breath – deep into the kidney area.
  • To come out: just gently roll up and come to sitting.

 

 

Full forward bend or legs up the wall

  • There are two options here – I would recommend legs up the wall if full forward bend feels far too intense, or if you have lower back issues. Set up for full forward bend: From sitting, extend both legs out in front of you. You can place support under the sitting bones, like a block or a folded blanket. This provides a tilt on the pelvis that assists the folding forward action from the hips. If the hamstrings are tight, you can place a rolled up blanket or towel under each knee.
  • Exhale and start to fold forward from the hips – you could come forward onto a support – lying the torso or forearms onto a bolster or a cushion. It can be nice to support the forehead with a block or book – this can be restful for the mind and supportive for the neck.
  • Be there for 2 – 5 minutes. Breathing deeply and possibly lengthening the exhale without force. Allow for an appropriate spinal curve – so not hunching but not striving to flatten the back. The spine needs to round slightly but you need to keep a sense of frontal space and ease around the lower rib cage/ area around the diaphragm. Remember to have the legs mildly energised – so not fired out on all cylinders but also not flopping and rolling out from the hip joints.
  • To come out: roll up, stacking the vertebrae as you roll.

Set up for legs up the wall:

  • This pose causes the downward pull of Chi to be reversed, refreshing the circulation of Chi through the lower body meridians. Chi can often stagnate in the legs.
  • From sitting, facing the wall, swivel and slide legs up the wall, buttocks against the wall. For tight hamstrings, move hips about six inches away from the wall. Keep sacrum weighted to the floor and the chin same height as the forehead. Place support under the head if needed, such as a foam block or a folded blanket.
  • You can wrap a yoga belt or something similar around the thighs or calves if you wish.
  • Be here for 2 – 4 minutes.
  • To come out: If using a yoga belt, wriggle your legs out. Place soles of the feet against the wall and gently “commando” yourself back along your mat towards the head end. Hug knees in and then roll onto your right side and rest for a bit before coming to sit.

 

Savasana

  • Take rest for 3 – 10 minutes. Place support under the knees if needed, with bolster, pillows or rolled blanket/towel. Cover the eyes if you wish. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Growing Pains

Life is not a perpetual honeymoon. This earth is a school. Spiritual growth does not come without effort, and, effort and change often means pain. I think it is meant to be that way: if there were no difficulties, we wouldnʼt look for anything higher. And that would be hell because it would keep us from the infinite bliss which is our birthright.

– Brother Anandamov

Find more information on Nadine’s Yin and Restorative Training Weekends here and the schedule for our regular Yin classes here.

Meadowlark Yoga

Visit our studio on the edge of the Meadows, open 7 days a week offering Ashtanga Vinyasa and other styles of yoga.Contact@www.meadowlarkyoga.com 43 Argyle Place, Edinburgh, EH9 1JT 0131 2287581