The Transformative Power of Yin
My relationship with Yin Yoga has been an on-and-off love affair. The very first encounter was breathtaking: After quite a sweaty Vinyasa flow Meghan Currie put us into poses I had never tried before. For what felt like an eternity she let us dwell into the sweet pain silently emerging deep in our hips. My heart was melting, I explored areas of my body I didn’t even have an anatomical name for and muscles – or what I later learned „fascia“ – were slowly releasing frustration and tension accumulated over years. Peeling off layer after layer I allowed myself to enter into a state of deep inner peace. After everything was over tears of happiness and relief ran over my cheeks.
In the following months some serious drama evolved: My first love – Jivamukti Yoga – took all my time and energy. I was practicing these very dynamic – „Yang“ – asanas almost every day. Just chilling on the floor without any „alignment“, in poses that had childish, non-sanskrit names like „butterfly“ or „angel“ felt like a total waste of time on my path to enlightenment while being in one-handed handstand.
Over the years I almost forgot about Yin Yoga and all the delicious joy it had brought to me when I – once in my life – had given up my striving and just let it happen.
Striving to non-striving
Shortly after becoming a certified Jivamukti-Yogateacher and still working on that one-handed handstand that would bring me „liberation while living“ as they say, I returned to Berlin. A befriended Jiva-teacher suggested to join one of his Yin classes. „Just try, just be“, he said.
I tried. And it was ok. I liked the music and the medieval stories about lumberjacks and clever craftsmen my friend was telling while my psoas was burning and the mind meandering somewhere between my bank account and postmodern linguist theories.
I tried again. And I hated it. There was this almost superhuman resistance to stay in the poses longer that two minutes. My back hurt, my mind was going nuts. I became frustrated – and angry. Why on earth couldn’t I relax? I just wanted to run away. Being trained in self-discipline and „abhyasa“ – the persevering practice Patanjali talks about in the Yoga Sutra – I forced myself to stay. Crying through the entire class.
This sado-maso-approach made the ecstasy of my first Yin practice become a dull, unreachable memory. Yet I couldn’t let it go. Somehow I knew that I needed it. There was too much Yang in my life, not only in Yoga. Also in my other professional life as a journalist and art critic. Even in my private life there was so much striving: To be the perfect women, lover, daughter, friend. Deep inside of me I knew that „letting go“ was important for my personal development. Even in Jivamukti Yoga this is the mantra we use for meditation in every single class: “Let go!”
And then, after all the fighting and the drama, I just surrendered. I went to a Yin Yoga teacher training with Biff Mithoefer, one of the most well-respected Yin Yoga masters world-wide.
Accompanied by the chirping of Tuscan crickets this impressively calm and gentle-eyed man with a startling resemblance to Santa Claus (and Jeff Bridges) said sentences that touched my heart: „You are perfect as you are.“ „You don’t have to change a thing.“ „Allow yourself to feel.“ „Just be – and be yourself.“ And most importantly for me: „Stop striving to non-striving!“
This week of Yin Yoga in Tuscany was one of the happiest times on my Yoga journey so far. So much joy, so much softness, so much freedom. What stays is the confident knowledge that surrendering to what you really are, to what you really need can awake a strong, transformative power in yourself. An energy that might even bring you closer to „liberation while living“ than finally mastering that one-handed handstand.