Yin

Running every day made me sore.

Running every day at dawn (when I should be sleeping!) made my leg muscles tight and my back sore. Taking a day off would be the sensible thing to do, but I had vowed I would finish my thirty-day morning running challenge, so I decided to see if yoga would help. I didn’t want a second work-out, I wanted my legs and back to feel better. A local yoga studio was offering a class called “yin and restorative yoga.” I wasn’t sure what either of those were, but “restorative” sounded good so I signed up.

As it turns out, restorative yoga is basically laying on comfy Mexican blankets while listening to relaxing music. I’m not quite sure where the yoga fits in, but the comfy blankets certainly felt restorative. I was sort of hoping that “yin” might be some type of tea served to us while laying on the comfy pile of blankets, but that was not what it turned out to be.

Yin yoga is getting into completely impossible positions (asanas) and then holding them for just a little less than an eternity— while listening to relaxing music. Yin is all about intentions.

I intend for my head to rest upon my leg. (My head is nowhere near my leg). My back is stiff and my leg is a very long ways away. I do not force my back to bend, I just slowly let it happen. After a minute or two I am startled to feel my hair brush against my leg. Then, quite unexpectedly, my head is on my knee. I know this cannot last, but somehow it does. Now my head is on my knee and I am actually getting comfortable. The music plays and I am just breathing with my head resting on my leg and my back is feeling better than it has in weeks.

“Ding!” Time’s up. Impossible.

It was a little miracle. The impossible went to possible and even semi-comfortable in just over five minutes and I did not hurt myself in the process. I just kept my intention focused. I just kept at it. Most miracles don’t occur in five minutes. Most overnight successes take years to accomplish. This little taste of yin was like real life— sped up.

I would like to be a less goal-oriented person. In the dance of life, I’d like to let life take the lead. But how do I do this when there are things I want to accomplish? My little sample of yin yoga was a wonderful lesson.

It doesn’t happen if I anticipate the end. It doesn’t happen by forcing change or rushing progress. Instead, I focus on being here in this moment and keeping my intention strong. The next thing I know my head is on my knee, or I have learned something that seemed unknowable, or I have written (as I am doing right now) my 200th column.

I still like lists and goals and schedules. But now, more often, I am realizing that the lists and goals and plans rarely pan out as I had hoped. Instead, it is the simple habits and changes that I quietly make and keep day after day that have the most profound impact.

So I am trying to do a little less pushing and a little more bending. These days, when I feel tired or defeated, instead of powering through, I take a nap.

Except I don’t call it a nap anymore. I call it “restorative yoga.”

Till next time,
—Carrie

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