Later this year, I will have reached 10 years since I attended a mindfulness course, which was the beginning of my meditation practice. I consider myself to be an experienced meditator who is able to sit to notice whatever may be arising. But the interesting thing is I sometimes find myself avoiding the sitting even though I know it is really good for me. Avoiding the stillness which would allow me to pay attention to how I am feeling and what is going on. Avoiding noticing the behaviours I have got caught up in that aren’t doing me any favours and that I am likely to benefit from changing. And this is okay. I see it as a choice I am making and have found other ways to be more mindful without having a seated practice every single day. Yin yoga is a big part of that for me.
With yin yoga, there is a lot of stillness involved. The practice involves moving the body into various positions to the point of some discomfort (not pain or intense discomfort) and then holding it. This can be surprisingly challenging as the stillness allows the muscles to relax and the intensity can often grow in some poses. There is much to be learned from holding back in yin yoga, and during those moments of choosing how far to push, we have to be mindful of our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. We have to pay attention to the level of sensation in the body and make a choice. We are invited to keep noticing the sensations as they shift. We are met with emotional discomfort as part of this sometimes and noticing this requires mindful attention and mindful choices about how we respond. Sometimes we will choose to stay with the discomfort and other times ease out of it slightly. Sometimes we will deepen the level of sensation and sometimes that is a mistake. We get to learn from each of these choices and consider how that links with our behaviour in other areas of our life. In my opinion, a good mindful practice helps us to see what we need to change and what is in our power to change, not just to cope with things exactly as they are.
Alongside the sensation in each pose being a helpful anchor point for me during this mindful practice, similar to how we might choose the breath or contact points between our body and a seat or the ground, I also find it is easier to persuade myself to do a little bit of yin when I might not want to sit for a meditation. There’s a sense of still doing something which helps the driven part of me whilst actually still being much more of a still practice that is more about being than doing. So you could say that it’s a way of tricking myself or you could say that I just acknowledge the challenge of sitting to meditate as often as might be helpful and I find a middle ground instead because it all counts.