The first week of spring in New England has given rise to some doubt that winter isn’t quite done with us. Despite the current frigid temperatures and a March blizzard, spring is showing signs of emergence, with the sun observed higher in the sky and stretching longer into each day.
This is a time for renewal and growth. What has been lying dormant in the winter is now ready to come to light. This is what we see not only in nature, but within ourselves. This is the time where we innately feel a pull to do some “spring cleaning” within our homes, and in the structure of our lives by becoming better organized and creating new habits. By tapping into the energy of the season, there can be a clear sense of what we want to accomplish and how to get there.
According to the Five Elements Theory, a Chinese philosophy used to describe interactions and relationships between things, each element has it’s own characteristics and associations with a different aspect of nature. Spring corresponds with the wood element; having been nourished by the water element of winter, wood can now emerge and grow. We can nourish this wood energy by practicing yoga postures that stimulate the liver and gallbladder meridians, which are the organs associated with this element. These meridians are located on the inner and outer lines of the body, and this month’s sequence was created specifically to create seasonal balance. It’s important to note that while our intention may be to nourish the wood energy, we want to engage in a physical practice that targets all lines of the body, stimulating all the meridians to bring the body into balance.
As you practice this sequence, pay close attention to the subtle nuances of the Qi moving through the tissues, softening and spreading through the entire body. Allow the mind to explore the intentions or goals you may have. Stay open and receptive as you develop the capacity to see clearly and directly all that your heart desires, fostering this expansive and creative wood energy.
How to Practice
There are four main principles of Yin Yoga. First, we come into a shape and go to the first point of resistance, and from that mild “edge” of sensation, observe what is being felt. Sensation should be no more than a mild, dull ache, and not gravitate toward anything sharp, stabbing or burning.
The second principle is to relax the target area. With the muscles relatively relaxed, the stress will transfer to the denser connective tissues. You may find that that there are multiple target areas within one pose, and that’s completely normal. It may change and shift throughout the duration of the hold.
Third, one remains relatively still for relatively longer periods of time. Postures can be held anywhere from three to even 20 minutes, but start with a time frame that makes sense for you, honoring the foregoing tenets. Keep in mind, you are not fixed in a single spot for the duration of the pose. Do be sure to change the angle of the pose to accommodate for any release, or to back away from sensation that becomes too intense.
Lastly, be sure to release each pose with care. There will likely be a sense of fragility in the body as the tissues respond to the stress. Move slowly and mindfully as you transition.
Practice the postures sequentially as listed, allowing for 3-6 minutes in each pose. The postures that are suggested to be practiced in a series can be held for less time if needed. Get creative with how you sequence, and be sure to give yourself at least 1-2 minutes between postures to rest in a prone or supine savasana, observing the effects. Static, muscular holds and even some slow, controlled dynamic movement are also appropriate ways to transition. It is normal to feel some fragility as you exit a posture, and that sensation may stay present for a minute or two.