Monica: Tell us about your journey into Yin Yoga?
Dona: It was David who told me to go to my first yin class, which was being offered in a small studio in BF Homes. (now closed). Jade Wood, a soul sister and visiting teacher from London, was teaching. I loved her Vinyasa class and she spoke highly of Yin Yoga so I went one morning. It was not the most pleasant experience but something inside knew it was needed. I came back again and the then I fell YIN LOVE! It had only been 2 years after I had given birth and my hips needed some loving tending. There were poses where I cried. Jade held the space for me so well that I let the tears flow and my hips melted. During one class, as I stayed in butterfly, I literally saw a vision of myself teaching Yin Yoga. The glimpse left me feeling expansive and happy so I went online immediately after class to search for a teacher training in Asia. That’s how I found my teacher and mentor Victor Chng who has been such a blessing and a model for not only Yin yoga but also living from the Yin-side. I took my 100 hours training in December 2010 but that was just the beginning. I studied on my own, mentored by Victor, and through retreats and refresher teacher training courses. Since then, I’ve accumulated over 150 hours of training on Yin Yoga alone. I am focusing now on the healing and therapeutic applications of Yin Yoga, specifically from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine and women’s health.
Monica: Why go YIN? What are the benefits of Yin Yoga?
Dona: Three words. Healing. Balance. Introspection. And these three words can be applied in all layers of our being – physical, energetic, mental, emotional, spiritual.
On a very physical level, Yin can give us more flexibility and range of motion, helps us detoxify, and keeps our joints soft and supple. It is truly Age DefYINg. (Haha! There is a workshop that I am working on for that). Yin Yoga has also helped so many women regulate their menstrual cycle. There is more to the physical though. We are very dynamic and external in nature and that serves as a distraction sometimes in coming to the truth of who we are. Through yin, we can heal our tired bodies and our weary minds. Healing begins when the mind and body are relaxed. One doesn’t need to be sick to benefit from healing. Healing simply means becoming whole again. Our modern lives have left us so fragmented (just look at how many styles of yoga and how many permutations of coffee drinks we have nowadays!).
We can also balance our activities, whether yoga or sports or dance or just plain running around in the corporate rat race, with some real downtime that helps the body repair and detoxify. We often work on the muscles. Yin works on the deep connective tissues that we often do not target as efficiently in dynamic practices. This balancing of Yin (restoring/conserving) and Yang (generating/consuming) energy then becomes a habit that is applied in all aspects of our lives. We start living closer to what nature has intended when we start embodying these yin and yang cycles. I do want to emphasize that YIN, as Paul Griley says, is inherently incomplete. I also have a very dynamic practice. It’s all about balance.
Lastly, through yin, we are given the chance, if we take it, to go deep within ourselves for some serious shadow work so we can be more whole.
Monica: What tips can you give for a person especially a beginner to stay still in a Yin Yoga pose?
Dona: Breathe. Let go. It can be confrontational on many levels, but it gets easier to stay in the pose longer. Also, come into the pose with a beginners mind. no expectations. Prepare to be surprised!
Monica: For the common person who only has 30mins to an hour each day for yoga practice, what Yin poses do you recommend to go with a Yang practice?
Dona: Sit and begin by scanning your body for what you need today. If it’s spine, you can do half butterfly (L, R) and caterpillar, twists, and saddle ending in child’s pose. If you need hips, do swan, dragon, half saddle, wide knee child’s pose. Always spend time in savasana.
Most importantly, practice with regularity, devotion, and surrender. This is what Patanjali describes a practice to be (not necessarily just asana!). And through that, we also cultivate non-attachment to results. Regarding classes, just show up. Seriously. Keep on showing up. The tissues we are working on in Yin are not like muscles. They are less elastic and takes time. Patience is a yin virtue, something that us modern people desperately need to learn in this instant gratification one-click world.
Monica: What personal life lessons have you learned on the Yin Yoga mat? :)
Dona: Living life from the Yin-side has definitely shown up in unexpected ways in my life. Yin is about minding what is not seen which then manifests to what is seen and tangible.
Patience, preparation, acceptance, allowance. I regard these as the yin virtues. I have seen my personality change as the practice helped me cultivate these yin virtues. Since we live our lives from the perspective of our personality, I have seen my life change as well.
I am a very dynamic person and I can be very impatient, causing me to be reactive at times. Through the practice of yin, I am seeing my reactivity transform. Instead of being reactive, I’ve become more responsive. I also demand a lot from myself and therefore I tend to demand a lot from others. As my mentor Victor shared, there is an old Chinese saying “Be square on the inside and round on the outside.” Yin has taught me to be disciplined and yet remain compassionate and accepting of people. I learned to relax around these tight areas; to relax our tight muscles in a yin pose to give space to our bodies. We are unique and diverse expressions of one consciousness so it is futile to have rigid expectations of people, especially those close to us. I definitely keep this in mind in raising my daughter (and spouse – hahah) as well!
As it is, I am a work-in-progress. Life is dynamic, always changing, so I take this balancing act one moment at a time. When I go off, I come back to the center. My yoga practice, both Yin and Yang (dynamic), has helped me learn how to do that with grace.
To know more about Yin Yoga, come to a FREE Yin Yoga class at Beyond Yoga Bonifacio High Street Central to be led by Dona T. Esteban. Call 5533799 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your mat.