Connection, stillness and releasing tension

07 december 2014 | Av Ulrica Norberg

We are all battling stress, tension, and mental challenges. I, like most people, have a long list of tasks to accomplish every day and many roles to juggle. So how do I best make this all work and still keep myself grounded and balanced?

I run my own company; I’m the mother of two small children (whom spending a lot of time with is important to me); I work as a yogateacher, writer, lecturer, coach, and dramatist. I teach yoga and meditation to groups and to individuals; and I conduct trainings and workshops and coordinate various events. But in between, I try to just to be still and be me. I constantly reflect upon how I can reduce tension and stress in my life. And I have, together with my family, made many conscious decisions in order to achieve greater space so I can stay attuned to what life has to offer. I want to actually live and be a present parent, wife, human being, and yogini, and not have my life be solely about tasks and mastering them.

Most of us spend nearly every waking moment connecting to the world around us, as experienced through our five physical senses of taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing. As we grow up and move through life on this physical plane, we identify more and more with this physical mode of existence, defining ourselves by how we look, what we wear, where we go. But we are so much more than this.

In yoga, we deal with aspects of tension through a wide-lens objective. We understand that if one part of a person is tense, other parts are too. If the mind is tense, so is the stomach, and if the stomach is tense, then the whole circulatory system is too. Therefore, yoga empasizes the importance of releasing tension. Inner tension can manifest in unhappy life chaos and disorder in the social life, as well as in aggression and warfare between cultures and nations.

Yoga claims that peace can only be achieved from within. I would say this is accurate, since we have tried for thousands of years to achieve peace in the world through religion, law, police forces, armies, and governments, and it still eludes us. In order to create a more peaceful world, we need to learn how to relax and balance our bodies and minds.

As yogis, we ought to focus on techniques that help to create inner calmness and a settled mind. In the text Hatha yoga Pradipika, this is described as being when we are bound by the bonds of Nada (the sound of our inner self; our Atman), the mind, having abandoned all fickleness, stands perfectly still like a mirror lake with no ruffles.

Yinyoga is an art of yielding, recieving, slowing down, and relaxing into wonderment on an everyday basis. Your yoga practice should be guiding you to what you need in order to balance yourself, rather than merely what you want.

So how does one get there?
This week we will working with being still; since even though being still might feel like torture, it is a practice to be mastered just like mastering a Downward dog, running 1 K or lifting more than 2 kilos.
(this text is part of a 4 week yin yoga theme period. See link at the bottom of this post.)

When you are immersed into a yinyoga class or practice, you will feel anxiety or antsy, wanting to move in each position just because it is advised not to. You become a rebel, wanting to change, run away and your mind is telling you it aikes everywhere and that this is not for you.

Then remember this; it is your stressed mind talking, your over-active left brain and adrenaline and cortisol in your blood. Something brought you to yoga; probably the need to slow things down, becoming more flexible, strond and get better circulation and mental focus. Good. Then works on tools how you can stay and look att your mind and how it behaves. You just have to be in the pose still of a couple of minutes. That´s all.

Try to resist the impulse to move around in each position. When you start to feel anxious, practice discerning whether those signals are coming from your body or from your mind. It’s likely that the mind is telling you to hurry up and do something, just as the body is beginning to reap the benefits of relaxing into the pose.

A stressed or very active mind will tell you that your hair is out of place, or there’s an itch that needs to be scratched. See if you can resist the urge to react to these distractions. Instead, imagine yourself releasing into the shape you’re creating with your body. This will help to relax the muscles around the connective tissue each pose is trying to reach. Movement can create stress on the connective tissue, which can lead to injuries. Move into a pose until you just begin to feel a “point of contact,” a stretching sensation that tells you you’re approaching your edge.

Turn to the active force within that can help you through it and also that can lower the stress in your mind; Breath. When you hits road bumps; challenges in body and mind, don´t step on the acceralation pedal and bite your lip – release the intensity of the pose a little so you can start to move more of your focus on to your breath. Breathe slow and deep but try not to breathe with Ujjayi, just deep breaths. Not changning anything or fixing, Just breathing. It is a pracitce all on its own. You can do it! Trust the process. Zillions of yogis are battling the same thing and millions have done it before you. Just one step at the time. Step back rather than forward.

Close your eyes and see if you can get to a place inside yourself where you can start to use the mind to observe. For this to happen, you need to slow your mind down. Start by sitting still and breathe for a few minutes. Miracles might happen.

The breath is a life force
We begin our life with a breath and we end it with a breath. The breath, body, and mind all work together. If one of these is agitated, the others will follow. If one is calmed, the others will follow.

From the breath we receive oxygen, which nourishes the blood, organs, and cells, and Prana—life force—travels on oxygen. Through breath our physical body is linked to the mind, and the mind to the life force, Prana. The breath enhances the mind-body connection, so when we start to cultivate the breath, we connect to our higher self.

In the practice of yinyoga, it is recommended to use a breathing technique that brings you to pratyahara. You do not want to use a manipulating breathing technique, but a method that brings you to a proper, natural and deep breath to help settle the mind and calm the nervous system. I recommend the Full Complete Breath technique

This text has been inspired by content from my book: Yin Yoga – An individual practice. If you like what you read you can buy it here!

More yin inspiration

Check out the four week yin yoga challenge. You can choose to go along with the whole month or just get inspired by all the blog posts. 

Video recommendations

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Embodied Yin: When you need something short and sweet for the heart.

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Go inside for presence and to allow yourself to accept what you experience and feel, to be OK with what is. A lunar meditative yin class with Ulrica Norberg.

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Landa med Ulrica Norberg i en mix av yinyoga och ett mjukt hathaflöde som låter dig släppa taget om spänningar.

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Stötta din matsmältning och lugna en orolig mage.

Ulrica Norberg

Ulrica är en av Sveriges pionjärer inom yoga och har skrivit flertalet böcker och artiklar både i Sverige och utomlands. Ulrica har även utbildat över 500 yogalärare i Skandinavien.

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