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  • Roberta Whitney Hughes

How Yin Yoga Fosters Authenticity

Updated: Apr 4

“Authenticity, to me, means that you lead more from your heart than you do from your head, that you understand who you are in the world, and you have a desire to connect and meet others where they are in the world.” Roberta Whitney Hughes


We all have a leadership role in life. Whether leadership is part of our work environment or home environment, the choices we make and how we show up each day has an impact on the people around us. Showing up authentically requires intentionality and practice. While there are many practices that can foster authenticity, Yin Yoga has been the foundational practice I have turned to for more than 20 years.


What is Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga is a passive practice that offers a variety of yoga poses that target the flexibility of the hips, legs, and low back. On a physical level, Yin Yoga prepares the body for meditation by easing the muscles that tend to tighten up during long periods of sitting. In our western world, Yin Yoga can also provide relief from sitting at a desk and working on a computer most of the day.



Much more than a physical practice, Yin Yoga strengthens our ability to become still and focus. It puts stress on the body on purpose so we can explore our relationship to stress and foster what I refer to as the three A’s of authenticity: awareness, acceptance, and acknowledgment.


Awareness

Awareness, more specifically self-awareness, becomes possible when we shift our focus from external stimulation to internal experiences. In the busyness of life, our internal experiences often are neglected. In order to observe what is happening on the inside, we must teach ourselves how to become still and quiet.

For most of us stillness and silence can be extremely uncomfortable. We are more accustomed to being in motion and preoccupied with our thoughts. This is where Yin Yoga becomes a useful tool. In a Yin Yoga class, your body and mind will receive guidance from the teacher. As you are guided to explore sensation, feel the breath, and notice thoughts, your mind will relax a bit. With time and practice, many students notice that they can let go of distracting thoughts more easily and turn their attention inward. This is where the practice of acceptance through self-awareness begins.



Acceptance

We cannot accept what we cannot see.

In many ways, Yin Yoga serves as a mirror reflecting back our internal struggles so that we can become more aware of them. In stillness, as we gain awareness of our body, thoughts, and emotions, we begin to observe how our minds play a role in our experiences. Typically, when we are having an uncomfortable experience, the mind wanders into judgment, limiting beliefs, and negative thinking. With practice, it becomes possible to recognize the judging mind and critical thoughts, along with the doubts and the worries that arise.


Cultivating awareness of our impulses and reactions to discomfort allows us to shift our focus toward accepting our experience rather than taking action to change it. Acceptance becomes more possible when we are not only able to be aware of our experiences, but become willing to be with them regardless of our comfort level.


With a regular Yin Yoga practice, most students notice that they feel better, sleep better, and move with more ease. They also report being more thoughtful in their actions, having healthier communication, and finding it easier to manage stressful situations when they arise.



Acknowledgment

Through Yin Yoga, we soon discover just how creative and disruptive the mind can be, especially in uncomfortable situations. With awareness and acceptance in place, the practice of acknowledgment becomes possible. Acknowledgment asks the brain to be with an experience without adding additional storylines or details.


This is where it helps to become playful. A teacher may guide students to notice when the mind adds extra or spirals into thinking, then practice returning to the experience and observing how the mind responds.


Playful practice fosters a lighthearted approach, making it easier to train up the skills that lead us to a more authentic existence. With practice, most students are able to minimize limiting beliefs as they learn to acknowledge how they feel without adding judgment or criticism to their experience.


How to Practice Yin Yoga

Think of Yin Yoga as an opportunity to be in a pose rather than an opportunity to do a pose. While doing is focused on effort and results, being brings the focus to awareness, acceptance, and acknowledgment.


Remember these three components when approaching your Yin Yoga practice:


Settle into the pose passively. This is your time to explore what is needed for your body; it is not a time to push or be overly ambitious. Each time you practice, your body will be different. Part of the practice is honoring your body each and every time you come into a pose. Try to practice as if you have never experienced the pose. Be curious and let your body show you what it needs.


Become still. It is important to minimize fidgeting and become still. If you are used to being active, it is normal to feel a bit fidgety as you begin to practice. Excessive fidgeting is usually a sign of too much stress. You can minimize stress and reduce fidgeting by backing out of a pose or adding a prop. This is a time to practice “less is more.”


Stay for time. Yin Yoga postures are effective when practiced for 1-20 minutes. Most teachers instruct students to stay in a pose for about three to five minutes. Five minutes gives your body the opportunity to settle into the pose so that you can begin to explore how your brain responds to stress.


To begin a Yin Yoga practice, visit PeaceFullLiving.com where you can take a livestream class, enjoy a class from our video library, or schedule a private session. Our instruction is designed for beginners and students of all levels.




To learn more about the study and practice of Yin Yoga, check out my favorite teachers:

Yin Yoga: Outline of a Quiet Practice by Paul Grilley

Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers

The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga: The Philosophy and Practice of Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark (See page 188 for my contribution on post-natal recovery Yin Yoga).

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