Of the many types of yoga I’ve practiced, Yin is my favorite. Yin yoga is a deep, restorative practice in which the connective tissues of the body are stretched and lengthened while holding poses for about 5-15 minutes. Holding poses so long can be difficult to maintain – and while they shouldn’t hurt, they should be achy and uncomfortable. The challenge is to find a level of comfort and relaxation despite the physical discomfort you may be feeling.
One tip from my Yin yoga instructor at Invivo is to breathe into the area where you are experiencing discomfort, where the stretch is deepest. For example, if you are feeling it intensely in your lower back, breathe and focus your attention on that spot. As I experienced with practice, by focusing my breath on the area of discomfort, it gradually became less intense and I was able to reach a deeper state of relaxation and calm.
I began applying this logic to uncomfortable situations that would arise in my day-to-day life. As someone with a history of anxiety and panic disorders, I’m always looking for new methods of stress prevention.
This one works beautifully.
It’s very simple. If there are certain things going on in your mind that are making you uncomfortable, or you are currently in an uncomfortable situation (in the presence of a fight, in traffic, etc.), clear your mind of everything but the one thing that’s causing you the most discomfort. Then take as many deep, focused breaths as you need, while visualizing just that one thing, until you feel its effects decrease into something more manageable.
When using this technique during asanas in Yin yoga, you will gradually become more comfortable. Not because you changed your pose to make it more manageable, but because you cultivated a sense of calmness directed to that area, to the very spot that was causing you anxiety just moments before. Try it outside of class and I promise it will help you find comfort in moments of panic and worry.
Nadine Hanson is an Invivo employee, an English major at UW-Milwaukee and an avid yoga enthusiast.