Yin Yoga in our Modern Life:  A reflection  


By Russelle Beardon

We are modern people having a human experience in the world…active, moving, constantly going forward, striving, improving, performing, achieving, seeking and pursuing.

We stride toward our goals and deadlines, we literally lean into the future – physically craning and straining the head, neck, shoulders, jaw and eyes.  The brow furrows deeply with intense concentration and the gut is habitually gripping.  We hold our breath in anticipation of what comes next.

All of this…for what reason?  To respond to the constant invitations and expectation of life?  Not least of all, technology, social media and the endless engagement with our various ‘devices’.

Anxious when we are cut off from the internet and mobile network, disconnected from the wild procession of social media images, events and messages.  What if we are missing out on something?

Constantly we are scanning, assessing, comparing, worrying, planning…constantly the body and the mind are moving.  We crave the result from whatever we do, often we want to get to the end before we have even begun.

It is exhausting right?   So this is why yin yoga.  Sarah Powers, a key founder of the yin yoga style offers three tattvas (truths) about yin yoga practice.  They are simple:

• An appropriate beginning (to the pose)

• Personal resolve (to be still)

• Wait (hold the pose)

Yin invites you to slow down, to redirect your attention, to venture inward below the surface images and the shiny baubles of ego titles and possessions.  You can journey to the deep seat of your grace, it is always there, and you can reconnect any time.

Practising yin yoga is a potent way to attend to the parts of yourself that cannot be seen.

In yin yoga, the body becomes still and surrendered in the poses, and the breath becomes your barometer, it will tell you what is going on.  Once the body stops fidgeting and becomes still, and we compassionately accept the rhythm of the breath, we have a chance to see clearly the activity, the fluctuations of the mind…and maybe when we see the more clearly, the mind too might become quiet.

Simple strategy?  Yes.

Easy to do? No.

Uncomfortable?  Absolutely!

Could you (will you) give yourself permission to abandon expectations and just witness your body, breath your mind and your mood?

Yoga Based on Concentration, Meditation Based on Mindfulness


In the Ashtanga practice, we use three main ingredients as we move through the asana sequences: Ujjayi Breath, Bandhas, and Drishti. When all these elements are applied in the sequence, you will develop the ability to restrain the modifications of the mind as the power of your concentration increases as well.

Concentration can create a momentary state of calmness and peace; however, there will be moments where this state will cause suppressed thoughts or emotions to rise to the surface of the mind, and it could be quite overwhelming to deal with, as it will create not only a lot of suffering in the mind, but in the body as well. While concentration is important in developing mindfulness and insight, too much concentration will refrain us from seeing and realizing the true nature of our selves, giving us the wrong idea that everything is permanent, that there is no suffering, and that we can control everything.

Observe the nature around you, and notice that everything is in constant change — as in our daily life, job, relationship, family, and so on. We cannot control things 100%, and because we, as human beings, are greatly influenced by the nature around us, we, too, are constantly changing.

 Vipassana Meditation, a meditation practice based on mindfulness, is a great tool to help you understand your true nature as it is. It will also help you in adjusting the level of concentration, which will help you realize through direct experience the three characteristics of all natural phenomena, these being:

         • Suffering

         • Impermanence

         • Non-self or Non-control

         Understanding this will lead you into a less stressful life, and a life with more compassion and kindness toward yourself and others. Truly understanding that nothing can be controlled all the time, and that change and suffering are part of life, will help you cultivate non-attachment and acceptance. Together, all these wisdom and qualities will improve many aspects of your life, and will give you the experience that you need in order to share all this with others as well.

 For this reason, it is important as a yoga practitioner (especially of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga) and as a yoga teacher to add a mindful practice into our daily life, as this will help us deal with all the desires or memories that will arise from the asana practice. Having that mindfulness allows us to acknowledge whatever is rising to the surface of the mind, slowly let it go, reducing its imprint within the mind. If the yoga practitioner lacks mindfulness, it will be very easy to be swayed away by the fluctuations of the mind, and perform actions according to these fluctuations.

 An example of this are the many cases of sexual assault reported by many yoga students against well-known teachers from different yoga traditions. This is a result of desire – and if desire is not acknowledged, it turns into greed, and if the person lacks mindfulness or does not have enough strength to control him/herself, then something like sexual assault and other types of negative feelings that may arise will drive your actions.

 Mindfulness is not difficult to practice; however, it requires patience, time, and dedication. Find the time and space to practice mindfulness in your daily life, and see how it affects not only your practice, but also your life in a positive way.