Yin vs Restorative

A few of you have asked, what exactly is the difference between Yin and Restorative yoga? While this could be answered many different ways, a simple explanation is within the intention. One is not “better” than the other and they often overlap at least on the outside.

Yin – focuses on finding length and expansion within the being.

Traditionally, yin poses follow the body’s meridian lines to move energy and stagnation that manifests physically in our tissues, feelings of tightness or stiffness. While the body is seemingly still within each pose, there is movement with each breath to deepen the experience. Finding the edge where comfort meets sensation and then with time and breath expanding the edge as space is created. Yin is a balance of effort and ease, not every pose will “feel good” depending on what is being worked on or through mentally or physically. In these experiences, the mind is able to relearn how to efficiently cope with the stories often attached to physical sensations. We practice staying present with what is around and within us on our mat so that we can do this for ourselves in the world. This process is done with support and care; we are never forcing our bodies to comply with what a pose “should” look like. We are, however, paying close attention to the unique individual alignment and subtle shifts of our own experience. Yin poses are considered the lunar side of yoga. Calming, cooling, releasing, and stretching. If you have tried yoga before, these are typically the poses you do seated or laying down on the mat. We are not working to build strength or heat within the body, but to release and move what is already there.

Restorative – focuses on softening, relaxing, and releasing within the being.

In restorative yoga, all effort is replaced by ease, at least that is the goal. This can be more challenging than you would think. Our bodies are constantly receiving information from interactions within our environment. This is a busy world. A lot of that input can get stuck in our body’s holding patterns. Restorative yoga allows our bodies to rest with awareness, relaxing the mind and body layer by layer. In doing so, the being gets to re remember what ease feels like, cultivating the inner observer our space. Awareness creates choice and we can better navigate how we respond to to the world around us. Restorative yoga is a longer class to allow time to properly set up each pose. We use (many) props such as bolsters, blocks, and blankets to completely support the body and find a comfortable resting position, which can take time. The intention is to release all effort, allowing the body to discover areas of chronic tension and softening with awareness.

The Path of Wellness

In the western paradigm, we are prone to a rather narrow view of health and healing.  In this disease-centric model we perceive healthcare as managing/responding to a disease or attempting to prevent it. This is like going from negative to zero and only focusing on half of the health picture.  Wellness, is the best term I have come across to describe what happens beyond zero and into the positive.  Wellness is not about prevention, it is about expansion.  There is always a place for the healthcare of disease management.  Illnesses are to be respected and cared for tenderly. We have ample, highly qualified, incredibly knowledgeable practitioners that offer services to effectively give this kind of care.  But those who are awake to the new paradigm of wellness may be looking for alternative tools to assist them on their journeys of expanding.  This is a response to such seekers.

If maintenance, such as in the western disease-centric model, takes us from negative to zero, wellness takes us from zero to positive.  As mentioned, wellness is about expanding consciousness.  Expanding consciousness entails a shift in one’s vibrational field.  Energy is information and is expressed at various density levels.  The densest being our physical body, then our etheric body, emotional, mental and various refined spiritual bodies.  For those on a spiritual path, it may be of interest how these bodies align and inform one another.  As we begin to look at wellness and expansion we discover we can use our own effort and will to refine even our densest of energy bodies.  As we do, we change the information (energy) available to us.  As this information changes, our physical body, mind, and emotions change as well.  Many will even report a shift in the day to day challenges they have and find things that use to be struggles before aren't anymore.

At this stage our consciousness begins to shift as a direct result of our own volition. We find tools to help us unfold and while we deal with any physical or social ailments, we become more interested in our inner journey.  Tools on our wellness journey are practices like eating the highest quality and vibrationally clean foods we can, meditation, mindful movement practices, and receiving energy work.  

Even though acupuncture has been around for thousands of years, what continues to be taught in schools today remains rooted in the western paradigm, be it responding to illness or focusing on preventing imbalances.  The focus of preventing imbalances is not a wrong way to practice.  I often use acupuncture as a tool to meet clients where they're at in dealing with physical issues.  But think about it, what is the motive for preventing energetic imbalances?  Most people I have asked say in order to avoid dealing with the physical/mental/emotional expressions of those imbalances.  Energy workers who are aware of the wellness paradigm are more interested in helping clients open up, and access the higher vibrations of their Heart center.  As this is done, prevention is  swept up and moved beyond as the expansion of consciousness is chosen over the contraction of focusing on the physical.

As we climb the ladder of wellness we find our sensitivity increases and we become more particular with what we ingest – including food, music/sound, information from TV and news, social activities, etc.  For those who are rooted in the comforts of the day to day living, it may not be the right time to embark on such a journey, but for those who are ready to release what is no longer needed and let the fires of the Heart burn through the gateways of higher consciousness, these shifts will be welcomed.  

Yoga as Medicine

In yoga, asana is the practice that moves and holds the body in specific positions with the purpose being to balance and purify.  In its original form, yoga was a practice for enlightenment.  In our culture most people I know approach yoga under a different motivation.  If they are taken by the practice, they share there is a sort of enlightening that occurs as the magic of yoga enables one to free up the various levels of the body, mind, emotions and spirit.   In this way, not only does the body become tone and the mind become more calm, but there is an expansion that occurs in the sense of self.  All the sudden “I” means more than my personality, my problems, my gifts, etc.  

Along the way of our yoga journey we begin to discover moving the body in certain positions changes the electrical current throughout the body.  As well, it changes the blood flow through our tissues and stretches and calms our nerves.  These changes are similar to how acupuncture, reiki, massage, chiropractic and other wellness modalities influence our bio-psycho–physio-energetic bodies.  Discovering what poses have what effect on your body is part of the transformation that occurs in yoga when the mind turns in on itself through the alignment of the body.  As you can imagine, having a good teacher to help you along the way is key in developing a true yoga practice, and not just a fitness practice.

Below is one position shared by 5 Lights teacher Melissa on Viparita Karani – “inverted in action” – and how it can be used as medicine.

High/low blood pressure? Insomnia? Low back pain? Anxiety? Headaches? Compromised immune system? Chronic stress? Healing an injury? Low energy? Chronic pain? If you said yes to any one of these ailments then Viparita Karani (pronounced Vee-pa-ree-ta Kah-ron-ee) is for you.

This pose translates from Sanskrit as “inverted in action”. Meaning, in a physically passive way you are quite actively creating powerful shifts in your being by changing the typical flow of energy. Inversion postures that take you upside down have the power to boost the body’s ability to adapt. As you probably know through your own experience, this world can be an intense place. We are constantly being exposed to other people, energies, messages, and circumstances that create a response within us. For better or for worse. While our thoughts and energy can shift rather quickly, our physical body has a deeper process for integrating and releasing information. Through yoga, we can bring our attention and intention back to the body to enhance this process. 

Viparita Karani in particular, helps the body in so many beautiful ways. When being supported by the wall (as shown in the picture), this posture has such profound benefits because it helps the body to replace effort with ease. When we allow ourselves to rest with awareness and support, we are clearing our systems, cleansing the body, and improving our energy flow. Healing from the inside out. #thanksyoga

Taking 5 to 10 minutes a day to rest with your feet up is like creating an energetic drain to release whatever happened that day or within this lifetime and bring you back to your center. Try this posture while listening to a guided meditation, audio book, or simply rest with your breath and know the benefits are great. Remember, self-care is never a waste time.

Yoga Energetics

In our busy and chaotic world, it is very common for people to become out of balance both internally and externally in their body. Ayurveda is the science of life and longevity and can often help people become more balanced. Through Ayurvedic practices, we adjust what we put into our body and develop or modify our daily practices, to find our unique state of balance. One component that will help bring balance to the body and mind, is yoga, the sister science to Ayurveda. The practice of yoga helps you become more in tune with how your physical body feels and can help you to move your prana (energy) through your body. It also helps with building strength, balance and focus to both your body and mind. To learn more about the science Ayurveda and to find out what your specific dosha is, check out Embrace Ayurveda for more information. 

Depending on your constitution (or dosha), you may need a different yoga practice than the person next to you. Kathy Gorohoff one of the yoga teachers at 5 Lights Wellness, studied Ayurveda during her teacher training and is able create a yoga practice for you that is specific to your dosha. A person with a Pitta constitution may need a more grounding, slow moving practice. Where a person with a Kapha imbalance may way to try a more heating or energetic practice. In general, Kathy's classes are gentle and energetic, while focusing on strength and stability. 5 Lights Wellness offers small, focused yoga classes and is dedicated to offering yoga that will provide overall wellness to each person that comes into class. 

If you are interested in learning more about Kathy's yoga classes or discussing a yoga practice specific to your dosha, go to: www.kathygorohoffyoga.com to contact Kathy or https://5lightswellness.com/yoga/ to sign up for a class.