Yoga teacher Mel Mclaughlin explores her love of a magical practice that brings peace, balance and stillness to her body and healing energies to her whole being.
I’m not sure I would still be here, both teaching and practicing in the yoga world, had I not found Yin. More than ten years ago on a romantic weekend away in the Blue Mountains, over two wintry nights exploring Yin with experts Paul and Suzee Grilley, I awakened to a completely different way of being in my body and my spirit. As my passion for snuggling with champagne and strawberries in front of a roaring log fire began to fade, another one was well and truly lit and it has burned brightly ever since.
After having many injuries and issues in my spine throughout my life, starting with a broken back when I was 15 years old, I shudder to think where I would be today without the magic of my Yin poses to bring relief, healing energy, space and regeneration to the deeper connective tissues of my spine. These same qualities soothe the fluctuations of thoughts and emotion, in my mind and heart, as I hold each pose.
In this season of my life — post injuries and after 15 years of yang-style teaching and practice — Yin Yoga, Taoist philosophy and the acupuncture channels and organs have become the comfy old jeans that Islip into every day. These practices are my slow pressed, cold-drip medicines of choice.
What a revelation it was to me to make shapes with no aesthetic agenda, to be with myself in a place of stillness and contemplation for five minutes or more of uninterrupted attention and to experience myself in a more feminine, soft, patient, and receptive way. Yin Yoga doesn’t necessarily look impressive on an Insta-feed as its magic is found internally, needing to be felt rather than simply conceptualised. Once tasted, the practice speaks for itself and becomes a juicy consort to our ‘yang’ practice of choice.
Mostly, I choose Yin these days. I haven’t abandoned the stronger, muscular, stable practice of yang yoga (or any other yang-style practice). Yin has simply become my ‘go-to’ for my own personal balance. The longer held and mostly floor-based postures offer a coolness to my fiery spirit, teasing apart the connective tissues and all they hold with patience and courage. This deep release throughout my being is what has kept me returning to Yin in the midst of a career and practice of hot style yang flow. The relief I have felt throughout my body by releasing the long fascial trains has been a profound change in perception. It has allowed me to feel my body as a whole connected expression rather than individual parts needing alignment, improvement or release. I have discovered how to just let it all be in one big mosh pit of sensation, pulsation, mindfulness and allowing.
“The acupuncture channels of the East are the fascial trains of the West.” — Dr Daniel Keown
The long, deep holds
The shapes we make in Yin are practiced without a sense of pushing and striving. In fact, we should only use about 60%-70% of our overall effort for the practice to be effective and safe. Once in the poses, we sit with intention and attention, to target and focus upon either body parts and joints, certain meridian channels and organs, or a particular chakra. We are releasing the connective tissues of the body and moving anything held in them including tensions, toxins, past experiences and energy. This makes space for introducing more hydration, blood and energy into an area keeping us moving, youthful and healthy in all directions so we have the ability to keep doing. As anatomy and Yin Yoga expert Thomas Myers said, “It will be a sad day when I myself can’t sail my boat any more!”
Meridians and Qi
You may like to think of meridians as an ‘energy highway’ in the body, and Qi as the vital energy flowing through that highway. Although we cannot see meridians and Qi like we can muscles and bones, they can be felt and experienced through our practice.
The meridian channels we are influencing in the fascia (the body’s connective tissue) relate to organ and tissue balance, health and communication in our physical and energetic bodies. The channels exist as conduits and pathways for Qi (vital energy). We are stimulating, creating and encouraging Qi when we tension (stretch) or compress the fascia in our bodies, breathe well, nourish well and practice mindfulness, rather than depleting Qi with worrying thoughts, fear, stress and fatigue.
This is fascia and its tension integrity. This balance of discontinuous compression elements, connected by continuous tension forces and allowing balance is known as tensegrity. This ubiquitous, collagenous ‘webbing’ that creates our form and strength, and contains and connects everything to everything, is an omnipresent communication throughout our body from our embryological beginnings to who we are today. This tissue has been our constant potential for change within and has expressed and changed with our growing or shrinking, habits and patterns, thoughts and feelings.
The role of the chakras
Because our chakras are organising centres strung along the central channel of Sushumna for the reception, assimilation, and transmission of vital energy (Qi), for yogis the ongoing work of not only awakening the chakras but eventually transcending them, becomes pivotal in a mindful, understood, enlightened life.
“Use it or lose it — we must move our bodies in all ways most days in both the yin and yang tissues or lose the ability to.” Paul Grille
The poetry of Yin
I’m talking about that enigmatic and interconnected physical, mental and energetic story of your body, told through the channels of acupuncture embedded in your fascial lines. From here the story is held, deciphered, influenced, experienced and transformed through the even subtler swirling vortices of your chakras in all three bodies: physical, astral and causal. These vortices connect us to past experiences and future potential through whichever modality we choose to explore and investigate. I choose Yin.
Mel Mclaughlin – www.theyinspace.com