Cut yourself some slack

12 juni 2019 | Av Satu Tuomela

It's not about doing, it's about being. Asana is about settling in, surrendering. By really focusing on this in your yin yoga practice as well as your yang, flow, practice, you provide your body with support to really release tension. When you relax – the doors will start to open. So stop forcing and start letting go.

Don't push it

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes: Slacken the tension born in your effort and fuse yourself with the current of life force within.

In other words, we must realize our limits in an asana and then back off, cut ourselves some slack. Don't push the posture to the limit. If we keep pushing the limit, going to one hundred percent and beyond, we are only going to run into more and more resistance. This is not only dangerous and can lead to injury, it is also counterproductive in terms of what we want to achieve. The thing is, when you stop forcing things and stop being aggressive, when you just give in and relax, that's when the doors are going to open. When we relax and let go, only then are we united with the life force, with prana. This is how you let go of deep tension in your connective tissue and fascia.

The concept of holding a posture is actually quite wrong. It's not about doing, it's about being. Asana is about settling in, surrendering. This way we can really benefit from asana. The true yogi is actually a lazy one ;), the asana is supposed to be a humble offering, not a show-piece. Instead of holding the pose, think of being held by the pose.

Slow down the flow
Your issues are in your tissues, as they say, and it takes an estimate of three to five minutes of holding a pose to fully penetrate the superficial muscle tissue layer, and to access the deeper layer of connective tissue and fascia. A slower practice not only makes for a deeper physical, but also a deeper emotional release. Yin yoga practice is all about this. But I encourage you to try to go there with a more yang style practice as well.

Slow the flow down. It should take a very long time to get into a pose. Allow yourself this time. Enjoy it, explore it and let it teach you. Marinating in a pose for a long time allows you to go deeper. There is a tendency in us to rush things. We only briefly stop in an asana and then proceed to the next one. In this type of dynamic practice, the heart pumps faster and internal heat is generated. This heat allows for the muscles to stretch more. Post-practice, endorphins are released and we feel good and relaxed. This is great, but it only goes so far. Once the muscles cool down, they shrink back to their resting length. Eventually the endorphins wear down. This kind of practice might only be skin deep, not penetrating the consciousness deeper and not calming the mental fluctuations.

Learn to listen to your body
After the prolonged hold, a phenomena called the Golgi tendon reflex (named after the italian anatomist Camillo Golgi) kicks in. In this, a neuron in the muscle tendon sends an impulse to the spine and the central nervous system. The central nervous system then sends it back to the muscle and that leads to the relaxation of the muscle and surrounding fascia. Prior to this, when we stretch a muscle for a short time, the muscle tries to resist the stretch by contracting to prevent the joints from overextending and the muscle tissue from tearing. The feeling of release associated with the Golgi tendon reflex is characteristically preceded by trembling, change in body temperature, sweating and emotional upset.

It is highly beneficial to the yoga practitioner to recognize these symptoms and their origin. When you encounter these feelings, observe them calmly, air them with your breath, recognize their nature and remember that they are going to pass. Embrace the steadiness and ease, let go of the resistance and give in. Trust yourself to the current of life and let it carry you. When we loosen our grip and let go, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and we experience profound mental, physical and emotional release. What follows is a deeper and calmer meditative state.

When you let go of the idea of trying to arrive somewhere, you can settle into the pose, just be there and explore. Don't hurry. Don't anticipate. Ultimately every asana, Yin or Yang, is a chance for meditation.

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Satu Tuomela

Satu Tuomela is an experienced and much appreciated yoga teacher and teacher trainer from Finland – living in Portugal and with a big and loving Kula (community) around the world. She has been teaching for over 20 years and is known for her unique and authentic style.

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