One of my favorite things to do these days is yin yoga. I had never heard of yin yoga until a couple months ago, when one of my roommates hosted a little yoga night in our living room. Basically, yin yoga is the practice of holding a yoga pose for three to five minutes. My favorite version of this yoga practice is yin yoga with affirmations. It relaxes me in a way yoga I’ve seen in the mainstream never has, which is definitely something I need right now.
Now, I am not good at yoga. My back problems cause issues with flexibility so yoga feels extra difficult, and yoga classes were always just a little outside of my stretched college-student budget. I don’t know, I guess I’ve just never been able to practice yoga regularly enough to get to the place all well-versed yogis seem to get to, where yoga is this relaxing thing all about breathing and connecting to yourself. For me, it always took all my concentration just to hold the pose. The struggle was enough to put me off of yoga as a form of exercise.
It was interesting, how the things I was introducing into my life in order to get healthy led me back to yoga, but in a completely different way. The only version of yoga I’ve ever encountered was this intense, hardcore workout type of yoga that had to be practiced in hundred and ten degree rooms surrounded by these perfect looking people who seemed infinitely better at life than you were. Obviously, this was all in my head, and no one is good or bad at life and you can’t figure people out based on how they look or how perfect their vinyasa flow is. But this time, when I re-encountered yoga, it was in my living room. There wasn’t any competition, the environment was private and peaceful, and the practice itself was calming and quiet. It didn’t feel as inaccessible as before. And it hit me that this is how yoga is meant to feel.
I love yin yoga because it allows me to get in touch with my body in each and every pose. There’s time to feel every comfort and discomfort, every stretch. I feel like I’m in touch with all the cells in my body. When practicing yin yoga with affirmations, basically there’s just an affirmation that you repeat in your mind while you hold the pose. The pose in combination with the affirmation is so effective because you’re focused on you’re so focused on the pose and the affirmation that it’s difficult to get distracted. You have to feel the pose, and you have to feel the affirmation. You have to acknowledge and consider how the affirmation makes you feel. It’s incredibly helpful in understanding what areas in your life and emotional growth still need work.
One of the first yin yoga with affirmations practices I followed had the affirmation, my natural state is one of wellness. I felt myself physically reject the affirmation—it was like I was actually trying to move away from the words. But as I held the pose, there was nowhere to go except deeper into that feeling. I had to sit there and consider why I’d reacted like that, and I realized that it was because I’d never really been well in my entire life. That realization spurred a whole lot of work. Questions came up like, why didn’t I think I deserved to be well? What has prevented me from treating myself well? What has kept me from becoming well? It’s helpful to have a journal on hand when doing these practices, because if you’re really invested in it, a lot of stuff will come up that’s useful to write down so you can go back to it later.
These days, I practice yoga twice a day. Once in the morning, and always yin yoga at night. My favorite videos to follow are from Yoga with Kassandra on YouTube. Yoga came back into my life at a time when I desperately needed a way to get in touch with my body and my mind, and it became something completely different from what my conception of it had been before. I never thought that yoga could be a source of relaxation and joy for me, but it is. I guess my point is that sometimes, the things you need find you, and they’re often things that you don’t expect. So stay aware, keep your eyes open, and be willing to accept what feels right even if it’s not what you expect.
image from @iuliastration on instagram