Emotional Benefits

Yin cultivates a safe spaciousness within the body and mind. Within the stillness emotions can arise that we may not have allowed ourselves to experience, which may have been denied, suppressed, laid dormant. As the postures adopted are relatively straightforward and do not require continual thought we can focus our attention onto the subtlety of our breath, bodily sensations or mental formations. As our practice develops we become increasingly aware of the wide spectrum of emotions we experience within the self-same posture, from one pose to the next and from session to session. We may feel less pleasurable feelings of terror, confusion, impatience, rage, irritation and those we prefer to experience: inspiration, peace, calm, pleasure, joy, happiness and indescribable stillness of mind.

Within the safe container of these shapes we can allow our emotions to rise and fall without having to react, act out of them, deny or suppress them. We can quietly notice our craving for the pleasurable and aversion for the less so. We create a space for our feelings to breathe, to move, to change to become something else. We learn we can embrace all of ourselves in stillness, developing emotional maturity and resiliency. We cultivate new pathways to relate to these transitory states, states that may have been hitherto intolerable and all-encompassing. Anchored deeply in shapes, inhabiting the body and breath, we can clearly see the nature of our feelings, experiencing them from the inside whilst simultaneously dis-identifying, knowing that we are vastly more than our emotions, minds and bodies. This sense of groundedness is aided by all the postures being held on the floor. There are no standing poses or balances. The body is close to the earth, weighted down where gravity and our breath can do the work.

In Chinese medicine what emotions are present within us and our associated judgement of them is perceived as less important. What is seen as much more significant is whether our emotions can flow freely without any obstructions. Each organ can be classified as either yin or yang and has a counterpart that shares similar emotional, psychological and energetic components but differs in its physical characteristics. Each pairing has specific emotions associated with them which become operative depending on whether the chi flow is balanced or disharmonious. There is a reciprocal relationship between the health of our organ-meridians and our emotions. If we experience prolonged bouts of a particular feeling it will affect the corresponding organ-meridian and equally the health of that organ will mean that we have a greater propensity to feel certain emotions more readily.

For example, if we have been very stressed, fearful and/or exhaustedly persevered we negatively influence our kidney chi. If our kidney chi is stagnant or deficient it can cause us to feel much more frightened more easily. It operates in both directions. In contrast, when our kidney chi is in harmony it can enable us to access our inherent wisdom, openness and gentleness. Certain postures such as sphinx or saddle are beautiful ways to nourish our kidney chi. When we hold these passive backbends we may notice fear arising and allow it to come up and move through us. We may experience intense anger, envy or frustration when we focus on opening up the hips as we work with the liver meridian-organ, indications of liver chi disharmony. But, when we can embrace these emotions and ourselves in these postures we can strengthen our ability to take care of ourselves and nourish our innate compassionate nature. Compassion is the emotion associated with harmonious liver chi.

Each organ-meridian pairing also has a particular colour, season, climate and taste associated with it. For example, when we are opening up the hips and working with the liver meridian it is associated with the birth cycle. Maternal thoughts and feelings about our own mothers or children can surface for healing and transmutation and for this reason one of my teachers used to advise we did not phone our mothers for an hour or so after class!