Principles of Yin

I have panic attacks, it starts as a small feeling in my chest that balloons up through my shoulders, back and neck. A surge of fear runs through me as the feeling digs a claw of bad memories into my brain and holds on as I try to resist.

This was my experience a little over a year ago when I attended a yin yoga class and yesterday I finally got the courage and the resolve to attend again. Yin yoga is a form of yoga where you get into a yoga pose and stay in the pose for 3 – 5 min, its an ideal time for mind wandering, self reflection and for me, panic attacks. I picked this class because a friend and a person that has an incredible ability for compassion was the instructor; I knew if I needed to get up and leave I could, if I broke down and cried it would be alright and the situation was a safe place for me to express whatever feelings came up without judgement.  The class went incredibly well, I enjoyed it but the instructor also really put a few things into perspective for me. 

She talked about the three principles of yin and I may be remembering this incorrectly but essentially step one is to find your edge, get into the pose and find a place where things are uncomfortable but not painful, challenging but not destructive. Step two is stay in that place, to resolve to be still in that moment to not back out of the uncomfortable feelings. The final element is time; allowin the body time to let the process happen.

This struck me because this is essentially the rebuilding process that I am applying to my life. Step 1 is to find the edge, to find that place where I am doing something a little bit different than what feels comfortable. This might be something as simple as when someone asks me how I am doing, if I am not doing well, I say “I’m struggling” or it could be something more significant like putting up a boundary and refusing to do something that doesn’t serve me, rather than just doing it and feeling resentful afterwards.  Step 1 is living an honest life, in the open and being vulnerable to the emotions and feelings that come with it.

Step 2 is to stick with that uncomfortable feeling, basically not to recant or diminish my honest feelings or productive boundaries. It is not backing off of what serves me. This means not slipping back into old habits and not pushing forward too fast or too hard. This means that I need to listen and feel my way through my life, to analyze if I am progressing or regressing and to have the courage to micro-adjust to find that healthy edge again. 

Step 3 is time. Giving the process time. I have been told that things get better with time, time heals all wounds and I don’t think that is correct. I think time can heal but in order for the healing to happen I need to remember step 1 and 2. Time alone is not enough. It is living the change, doing the actions, making different decisions and allowing myself, my body and my mind the time to progress from uncomfortable to comfortable. Then repeating the process. Growth takes all three steps. 

Growth is not easy. Yin is not easy. For me the temptation to back out, to hide, to simply go back to my old habits is always there. The fantasy world is always tempting me and reality is a challenge at this point. But to not use the three steps, to not try, fail and try again doesn't get me anywhere. It would be the equivalent of going to yin, having a nap and then complaining that I didn't feel a stretch. 

Yin takes work, rebuilding takes work, growth takes work and the reality is all of that work doesn't look like much on the outside but internally a great state of change is underway one thought (or yoga pose) at a time.