RESTORATIVE-YIN YOGA involves supported body/mind relaxation. This is gentle, gentle yoga that promotes deep relaxation for stress reduction while also stretching and rehabilitating connective tissue.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Serenity



Copyright Lance Kinseth, Open Heart-Mind/Kanshin, 2011


IN CALM BODY-MIND practices, as the heartbeat comes into our awareness, a sense of serenity may sweep over us.  It is likely not just mindfulness of being “present,” or “being in the moment.”  The heartbeat may be touching something deeper within us that we intuitively know but that does not raise to explicit consciousness.  Our heartbeat reflects the ebb and flow of the day, and that, in turn, of the roll of the Earth through its seasons and the ongoing creation of the galaxies in geo-time.  We may forget that we live simultaneously within different scales of time, with geo-time being somehow “inside” everyday life.  Psychologically, this experience offers an anecdote to calm the fast pace of daily life.  And on occasion, the calmness may swell to a sense of serenity.


Draw a picture of “serenity,” and there may be a strong sense of timelessness and calmness.  At some point, the immanent moment may express the eternal.  “Time” as we know it is still there as the heart beats moment-by-moment.  But something changes.  You might assume the pose of a resting child, legs folded and back bent over folded legs.  The body stills and softens, and the breath flows, while day simultaneously ebbs slowly into night and Earth falls through interstellar space.  A moment in everyday time outspreads into a vast array of time, so as to open a sense of timelessness—a stillness—that cools the heat of the moment.


Spend some moments with a flower.  Look very closely, as if seeing a flower for the rift time.  There, in the bold and subtle colors and in the tiny details, find very real, precise complexity that is beyond us.  Follow the life of the flower and find that it is an expression of the tilt of the Earth and energy of a star.  Find also that this depth is undistanced from us, in each moment.  And that which you find in the flower is within the very heart of each of us.  Hermann Hesse wrote, Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.  Inside each moment of time is, perhaps, a vast unbreakable flow that is the thing that lives best. 


Within each of us and within each event, there is a palace of repose that is tranquil, restful.  To reach this place, we might let go of no more than our small view—not abandoning anything, but rather, unfixing, allowing for acceptance of contradictions and limitations, opening, becoming curious, learning.


Paradoxically, moment-by-moment, soft breath of gentle body-mind practices concretely opens a timeless, serene pathway inside each of us that, paradoxically, opens on a landscape that dissolves “inside/outside” and time, that melds body and mind and spirit into a borderless tapestry of restful, timeless being-ness.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lightness


Copyright Lance Kinseth, Cloud Valley/Unkan, 2011

SEATED ON THE MATT, we might be encouraged to allow the chest to softly rise and lift away from the lower body, and we might sense the body to lighten.  In Vrksasana [Tree pose], with arms extended upward, there may a strong perception of a lightness of being, as if being drawn upward.  In savasana, the body at rest might be sensed to sinking in to the matt, but the body may also be sensed to be floating.  Beyond yoga, in taichi and qigong, hands may be described as floating up like clouds, and some days our arms seem to be drawn up rather than lifted.

On the matt, the body is endlessly falling through space as an aspect of the Milky Way galaxy, well over a million miles per hour.  Even sitting still, the body floats imperceptibly above the floor.  Far less than microscopic—at the atomic level—there is repulsion between the atoms of the floor and the atoms of the body.

Yoga practice often begins by encourages psychological transformation to a “lightness of being”—a coming to the matt and letting go of the everyday, and aspiring to be present in the moments of practice.  A spiritual sense of light, anchored through the image of prana/energy, may also be explored, in which the practice is sensed to energize body-mind-spirit, so that a person refreshes and restores and rebalances, and glows or emits energy.

At night, we look to the moon [chandra] and see the reality of a multi-quadrillion ton object circling the Earth.  And by day, the Earth does the same in its orbit about the sun [surya], which, in turn, orbits the galactic center.  There is a relationship between gravity and lightness, within the body and within the cosmos.  As a force, gravity is extremely weak as compared to electric and strong forces within the atom, where the nucleus of the atoms spins at perhaps 150 million mph and takes up less than a 100,000th of the space, making the mass of these building blocks of matter is extremely small and “light.”  Atoms are spaceous and their “solidity” is due to profoundly energized movement.

A sense of lightness is restful.  Burden is put down through the flow of the practice, and consummates in savasana.  In restorative-yin yoga, “becoming light” permeates the practice—releasing, opening, listening, deeply relaxing.  The body-mind-spirit is admonished to be receptive, to open and to listen—to lighten and receive.

Wisdom In The Bones: Imaginal Vs. Imaginary Experience

Copyright Lance Kinseth, Gradually Advancing Calm/Taizen, 2011

THE SUSTAINED QUIET of restorative yoga and yin yoga can provoke imagery that may seem to be a departure from routine, everyday thought.   The calmness of the practice can have clear physiological benefits that occur in the practice session that may carryover into everyday life so that a person is less reactive and more open to stimuli that otherwise tend to be overlooked in daily life.  There likely to be no negative physiological outcomes from restorative practices, with the exception of a sense of agitation/anxiety for those who find the duration of both quietness and sustained poses to be unsettling.

A sense of a change in imagery may be far less forthcoming than physiological changes—especially relaxation responses.  However, at some point in restorative-yin practice, there may be a sense of imagery that is not simply a random stream of imagination, but rather seems to have a sense of meaningfulness.  There may be a sense of this imagery being somehow more “authentic” or deeply personal, or even “transpersonal” in the sense of revealing a sense of personal experience being connected to events that have seemed separate from oneself, or even a sense of personal activity directly expressing larger processes.  Imagination seems to transform to become imaginal, which is to say, expressing something real—not imaginary—that has been obscured from awareness by the demands of everyday routine. 

The stillness of restorative practice may seem to have stilled both the “chatter” of everyday life—of that which we did and that which we need to do—and gone even deep to still an internal chatter comprised of expectations and assumptions to touch a deep ground of “beingness” that underlies personality and culture.

In calming the body, we begin to listen to the body.  The billions of years of organic evolution are present there in exquisite design.  And whether it is “cell memory” and/or this exquisite design responding to the moment, our consciousness connects to this bio-physiological process—“body-mind,” in a way that is beyond using our conscious intent to regulate physiology to relax.  We are taken further, perhaps touching what the body seeks for optimal health.  We may even open a greater sense of clarity with regard to what it is for which we are living, especially with regard to how the personal expresses and serves the universal.   Calmness offers a doorway to a complex library “in the bones.”

There is a sense that this “imaginal” experience “sees through the dark”—through a veil that has accrued from routine, culture, and personal experience.  This experience is not unique to restorative yoga.  It is at the heart of a diverse array of practices that aspire to

It it not alien to culture.  It permeates all of it—in therapeutic process, politics, religion.  But it tends to become “derivative” rather than original.  It is likely to be co-opted.

But when we simply quiet and become still, at some point, a gateway that we did not anticipate is opened.   Having become quiet and relaxed, a very simple option, perhaps no more than being asked to recall a positive experience without really checking it, will provoke something unique to each participant.  And, in that which is recalled, there is likely to be some core element that is an aspect of a person’s life directive.  Thinking about it and talking about it may not really access the same quality of information that may spontaneously emerge.  And for the qualitative test, the recollection may be deeply heart-felt—emotive—and sensed to be in line with that for which one is striving.   And further, it is likely to be a quality that is not achieved by money or status.   Still, there is always this need to check one’s “discovery,” to see if it sustains its meaningfulness and feeling.

Our bones and our blood and our breath may speak to us.  Japanese Zen adept, Ikkyu Sojun [1394-1481] writes in Giakotsu[1] (“Skeletons,” composed in 1457 when living in a landscape of famine, plagues, riots and wars in Japan), “When the breath expires,…the skin ruptures,” and there is “nothing more than a set of bare bones.”  Still, Ikkyu continues, there something “unborn and undying” that is not completely within, and quite astonishing .   Ikkyu writes,
            Break open
            A cherry tree
            And there are no flowers,
            But the spring breeze
            Brings forth myriad flowers!

And so, there is not only the potential for access of a deeper sense of individual purpose, but also the possibility of accessing a sense of the whole world expressing itself in personal actions in a way that can be really touched rather than imagined in fantasy.  Not just Asian, in Western thought, we find this well expressed in the work of Carl Jung.  His “active imagination” is imaginal rather than imaginary, aspiring to access something deep and interweaving the individual into a larger identity beyond self, and describes personal life expressing “archetypes” such as the “mother,” “the wise one,” and the “hero.”  In the very personal life transition of marriage, we also express “the way of all flesh.”   



[1] A translation of Giakotsu, from John Stevens, Three Zen Masters, pp. 39-47.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Blossoms

Copyright Lance Kinseth, Shining Spring/Shunsho, 2011

Tiny prayer flag blossoms wavering in soft wind—
In each flower
The whole world blooms.

“APRIL SHOWERS BRING May flowers.”  The mesmerizing power of each tiny blossom quietly manifests the unceasing cosmic change that, by the dependable return of spring blossoms, also reflects permanency.  From now until frost, week by week, the changing parade of blossoms marches forward.

In our return to quiet practice of restorative and yin yoga asanas, the landscape of the body warms, and unfolds, and blooms.  Variations of form—“blossoms”—assemble themselves in a changing, fluid parade.

As we look into flowers and as we hold each gentle pose, and return to silence and listen, we begin to discover another world.  It is a world that completes us as we become aware of it.