Spring has arrived! This season is a time of rebirth, new growth, and expansion. It is an expression of life at its strongest. With increased activity levels and energy, we see an increase in creativity and determination. With this increase, we begin to plant seeds, make new plans, and formulate ideas. To make room for all that is new, we need to also purge the old. We till garden beds, dust out the cobwebs, and organize our closets. Just as we "spring clean" our external environment, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) suggests we also "spring clean" our internal environment.
One way of cleaning out our internal environment is by practicing Yin yoga. Yin is a style of practice in which we hold passive, seated postures for longer periods of time allowing us to target deeper layers of the body. We often follow specific lines of the body, called Meridians, that TCM use in acupuncture and acupressure. The Meridians are channels in which our vital energy (qi/chi) flows to all parts of the body. Following these energy lines in the body we begin to gently elongate and compress regions of the body restricting and promoting the flow of qi. Qi (also known as prana) is the life-force within. The energy within us that keeps us alive and well.
In TCM, springtime is connected to the Liver & Gallbladder organs and their respective meridian lines. When there is obstruction in the flow of qi or the qi is depleted we begin to feel disharmony in the body. For optimal health and well being, it's imperative we begin to bring harmony back into the body.
The liver stores, filters, and distributes our blood; it oversees the health of ligaments and tendons. The liver ensures smooth flow of our GI tract. It's meridian line starts inside the big toe, moves up the inside of the ankle, up the inner line of the leg, into and through the groin, inside the torso up into the liver, up through the throat and into the eye and ends at the crown of the head. When there is disharmony in the liver, we may experience low back pain, abdominal pain, hypertension, arthritis, or blurry vision. Imbalance is likely to cause intense feelings of frustration, anger, and rage. Harmony here is expressed as kindness, generosity, acceptance, and compassion.
The gallbladder produces and stores bile to metabolize or break down fats from the foods we consume. Energetically, it's responsible for decision making and exhibiting wise judgement. Its meridian line begins near the outside corner of the eye, around the outside of the ear and face, through the bottom of the skull, down the neck and shoulder, zig-zags along the ribs, passes the waist and pelvis, through to the outside of the leg, to the ankle, ending on the outside of the fourth toe. Disharmony may appear physically as insomnia, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, stiffness in the neck and shoulders. Feelings of timidity, indecision, and discouragement may arise when there is an imbalance here. Harmony is expressed as courage, initiative, creative expression, and sound decision making.
Obstruction of flow in the liver and gallbladder meridian corresponds with anger and frustration, usually stemming from the feeling of inability to move forward or being stuck. Creating balance here will allow us to feel these emotions, process and transform them. We find freedom in the stabilization of our emotions, allowing us to find balance and appropriate expression.
The process of clearing these channels has the potential to bring up agitation or unsettling emotions; however, it can also bring about action, creating within us flexibility, vision, and adaptability. As we restore balance, detox organ systems, and nourish the digestive system, we begin to release tension and stress from the spine and hips, restore mental clarity and find a more balanced emotional state.
Invite a sense of openness to this time of growth and renewal. Allow for this change to happen gently and gradually. Find support in your breath, the rhythm that helps you expand into all that you are without losing the connection to the Self at your center.
Yin Yoga Poses
As you begin to practice these postures start by settling into the body exactly as it is, knowing that in this moment, you are exactly where and as you should be. Allow your breath to be slow and natural. Go into each posture only to your first edge, that moment when you first feel sensation. Rest in a place you can hold for 3-5 minutes with ease. Remember some discomfort may arise and that's part of the beauty of yin. Connecting with your breath and allowing yourself to endure. Every moment ends. If you feel any sharp or shooting pains, please back out of the pose gently. Commit to each pose by remaining as still as possible for the full length of time. In this stillness of the body, we calm the breath, and from here we can find true peace of mind