Instead of beginning the first day of the new year with an excitement for new beginnings, I had lost my sense of hope. My husband and children were flying across the pond back to London but I stayed behind in Los Angeles to be with my father who was in intensive care. He was awaiting surgery for a debilitating condition.
But between the time I spent at the hospital I turned to my Yin yoga practice. As always, it became the lifeline that re-connected me with the power and strength to deal with the challenges I faced.
Here are three powerful ways that Yin yoga can be your lifeline during times of great need:
1. You will approach challenges with more mindfulness.
I was initially hesitant to go to class because I was afraid of what would surface. I was experiencing so much emotion. My body ached from sleeping in the hospital, my mind pondered the what ifs, and my heart ached to have my father back at home. At the same time, I yearned to be reunited with my London family. I knew that I needed to get on my mat and breathe.
In any yoga practice we become more present with our experience with each breath, and we cultivate a more loving attention toward the future, instead of being fearful and anxious. This awareness ultimately has the power to encourage and imprint our life both on and off the mat.
It would seem that the only thing we can be certain of in life is change. As yogis, we begin to live more consciously and authentically through any change, remembering that our body, mind and spirit are truly connected.
And did I get emotional during class? Absolutely. But I learned that it's unquestionably OK. Yoga allows us the space to acknowledge our thoughts and emotions and not to hang on to them, but rather let them pass. This beautiful spiritual lesson makes me more mindful, strengthening my emotional reserve.
2. You will learn to practice patience.
As a family, we did our best to remain strong while we were with my father in the hospital. It was not easy to watch my mother fight back her tears. My entire being longed for nourishment — to just be with what was, to surrender. That is exactly what Yin yoga does for me every single time.
But this practice didn't always come easy to me. My first experiences were difficult because I kept thinking, "When are we going to move?" Or, "When are we going to change poses?" I'm sure I'm not alone that many of us have a fast-paced lifestyle that does not leave a lot of time for stillness, reflection and presence. A Yin practice is incredibly slow compared to faster Yang practices like vinyasa.
It took a few classes before I was able to really appreciate and enjoy the relaxed pace of Yin. I continued to accept the challenge: to stay comfortable in the uncomfortable. And eventually, it paid off! When we train the body to become still, we train the mind — finding our way home to inner peace.
And though I don't know what each day will bring, I do know that my family and I have a second chance with my father — to enjoy him, love him and honor him. Instead of focusing on the past or future, practicing Yin yoga has encouraged me to fully embrace and live life in the present moment, with him and myself. Because after all, that is what life is all about.
3. Your body will feel deeply nourished.
Yin yoga is a deliciously deep, meditative and reflective practice in which floor-based postures are held for an extended period of time. Unlike a dynamic yang practice that works the muscles through repetition, Yin works the deeper layers of the body such as the fascia, connective tissues, joints and bones.
Yin is a deeply healing practice with profound physical, emotional and energetic effects. During challenging times in our lives, our emotions can deplete our bodies of energy, so this was deeply nourishing for my overall well-being.
Yin yoga continues to give me the strength and courage to honor the roles and responsibilities I have on my life's journey. I invite you to try a Yin yoga class, to keep an open mind but above all an open heart. Through our practice, we allow the space and time to touch base with who we truly are — beneath the story, beneath the tragedy. It is here where we begin to live with more grace, strength and courage.
Photo courtesy of the author