Nothing to change and nowhere to go: embracing who we are, as we are.
There are 2 ways I like to describe my yoga practice. One is like a mirror: it reflects back to me who I am, now, and how I am, in this moment. It shows me my emotional state and the state of my mind - my judgements, my reactivity and my conditioning (and it’s all just information, none of it is wrong!). The other way I like to see my practice is like a cocoon: I create the time and space to go inside myself, and as I bring awareness and loving-kindness to my inner landscape, things move and I come out changed.
I would like to share a little bit about Yin Yoga and how to use it as a way of embracing ourselves, all of ourselves, as we are. Yin Yoga is a slow practice: we take our time to get into each posture, gently finding our personal “edge” and we spend time there, simply being present with what is. We use props for support and we allow time and gravity to open our bodies. Each posture activates different meridians and evokes different sensations and feelings.
The first step is to cultivate equanimity towards everything that arises within the body-mind. Equanimity essentially means to become aware of what is, without becoming it. The key is to strengthen the witness within: the part of us that can observe emotional and mental states without identifying with them. Developing the capacity to remain aware but non-judgemental is what transforms our experience from suffering to acceptance and openness.
Beyond non-reaction we learn to embrace what we see. To embrace literally means “to take into ones arms”. I love the image of bringing all aspects of ourselves into our own arms, to be acknowledged, accepted and loved (all the parts we judge to be not good enough or wrong, all the emotions, thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable or seemingly unacceptable.)
It may seem contradictory to see our yoga practice as a refuge if every time we turn within, we meet the chaos of our minds and the pain of our emotions, but the more we understand that what presents itself is not our true nature, just passing states of the body-mind, the more we can truly be at home and at ease with ourselves and the more we can enjoy all sensations as they come and go (on and off the mat). When we stop fighting parts of ourselves and become our own ally we are able to resource ourselves from within and we find ourselves less dependent on external circumstances in order to be happy.
In Yin Yoga we are learning to love and accept ourselves (and the circumstances of our lives) exactly as we (they) are. We are cultivating an embodied experience of self-care, self-compassion and self-love that we can then take beyond the yoga mat, and into our daily lives - and then from ourselves to others.