Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Yin and Yang, Eyes Closed

The Yin and Yang Symbol with black representin...Image via Wikipedia

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of attending a Yin and Yang Yoga workshop at Susanne Murtha's gorgeous yoga studio in Bakers Mills, NY. Ken Nelson, PhD, LMT, a senior teacher at Kripalu in Lenox, MA, led the workshop. Ken, and his assistant Lesli, guided the group through 3 1/2 hours of movement and stillness as bright sunshine streamed through the windows.

We started with om, exploring one part of the sound at a time and really feeling the sounds resonate in different parts of our bodies. Then we chanted some good, long, full oms. Ahhhh....

After warming up we moved into the Yang portion of the workshop. Ken taught us movements and Taoist breathing that seemed like Tai Chi. We used the breath to gather and direct energy up, down and to the sides, then to settle the energy back into our cores. The arms moved with the energy, while our legs took familiar yoga poses, like Goddess and Warrior II. We repeated the movements many times, letting our muscles enjoy the repetition.

The second part of the workshop was the Yin poses. I have to admit I've never been a big fan of Yin yoga. An acquaintance was interested in becoming a Yin teacher and I practiced with her a couple of times, hating every long, drawn-out minute of it. When I tried at home I got bored 30 seconds into a pose and concluded that this was not the practice for me.

I glad I decided to give it another try. I really liked the Yin yoga. Ken did a great job of presenting, talking us through how our bodies were supposed to feel during and after the poses. He said we had been holding the poses for at least three minutes, but it never seemed that long. I even lasted through frog, although I was cursing my tight hip adductors and bony knee caps the entire time. Ken's simple anatomy lessons helped, as did his reminders that, once we knew exactly which muscle was stretching, we should let the tight muscle relax. I was surprised when it actually worked, and loved being in touch with my body enough to be able to feel the fibers of the muscles release on my command. Mmmmm.....

The time went by quickly. I was relishing being on my mat, allowing myself to be taught. I kept my eyes closed as much as I could. Since none of my students were with me, I turned off my teacher-brain and consciously avoided watching the others in the workshop. (I couldn't turn it off completely, of course. Every now and then I caught myself tucking away new information for future use.) While I love teaching, I am trying to take time for my own practice and self-development as well. I believe when I am feeling centered and whole I have more to offer my students.

Another blessing that came out of the workshop was finally meeting Susanne Murtha in person, as well as another yoga teacher who had come to take the workshop. I was warmly welcomed by both. Yoga is pretty spread out in the Adirondacks, so teachers don't have the same kind of community they have when they teach in big yoga studios. It will take extra effort (and driving), but I think we can build a community of sorts here. I love the online yoga community, but sometimes what I really need is a walk in the woods with a like-minded soul. And what could be better than being gathered into a hug by a new friend?

Om Shanti. Peace.
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