Somatic Wisdom of Yin Asana: Unraveling Ananhatasana
Part 1 of 4: Somatic Wisdom of Yin Asana
An Energetically Intimate Examination of Melting Heart Pose
By: Kali Durga Yoga
On Yin & The Great Withdrawal from the Ever Shifting Sensory Realm.
Yin is a helpful container to practice PRATYAHARA: Withdrawal of the Senses, or as I like to call it ‘The Great Withdrawal’.
Teaching in Los Angeles, I see studentship enter the studio with a flurry of externalities, a contingency of chaos, and filtering through the debris of life in constant motion. The goal of a Yin practice is to allow the system to settle into stillness so true cellular regeneration and deep tissue restoration can occur. However, modernity implies that the availability of stillness and spaciousness is intermittent at best. The city sweeps you through its streets, the to-do list mounts, and in the midst of progression and productivity there is rarely time for the dust of the subtle realm to settle.
With that in mind, my objective in offering Yin Yoga as a daily foundational practice is not to demand that the practitioner set aside the perfect amount of space and time with complete clarity of mind. The objective is this: to train the nervous system to become comfortable with the ever-shifting state.
There may be space between the thoughts and between the breath in some moments, and in others we may succumb to the normative patterning of clinging and cluttering the foreground of our mentality. Either perspective is part of the process. We might inquire - How do I extricate myself from the onerous paradigms of an involved and often overwrought life? Where and how is stillness accessible to me, even in the midst of movement?
I use Anahatasana (Melting Heart) as a way to observe the threading of breath along the length of the spine, supported by a still and stable base of skeletal alignment of pelvis and femur bones. This shape encourages us to seek stability and spaciousness even in the midst of a turbulent breath. In terms of Yin Asanas, this one has quite a Yang elemental texture to it – there is activity, there is muscular engagement, and yet – there is the propensity to experience a subtle sweep of deep, still, quietude – if even for a brief and fleeting moment.
Note: There are many resources online which point towards the proper cueing, entering and exiting the shape, contraindications and modifications. I encourage you to explore those on your own accord – the thrust of this post is not to cookie-cutter the shape for you, but rather to offer some of the underlying energetic repercussions a refined relationship to this posture will provide.
As the name implies, the structure of this shape allows for an energetic pooling at the locus of the heart as it melts off the spine, drips from the sternum, pools and puddles on the earth below you. What a delectable manner to settle! Arms outstretched allows you to lengthen the Heart & Lung Channels of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Meridians, stretches the lobes of the lungs long so that breath becomes more accessible in the backbody.
This is a backbend for the upper thoracic spine, which tends to be the most inflexible region of the vertebral column. Repercussions of inflexibility here include rotator cuff rigidity and neck pain. The more mobility you have here, the greater flow and flush of prana and cerebrospinal fluids you have. I see a lot of hypermobile yogis electing the lumbar spine to bend deeply in mid and lower back. The lumbar spine should serve to stabilize here, so you can encourage a deep and therapeutic compression in thoracic.
The weight of the pelvis should be balanced over the knees: another way of thinking of this is ensuring the length of the femur bones are directly perpendicular to the mat. This will allow even gravitational force to be distributed down the thighs, maintaining a foundation of stability. Slight engagement of the quadriceps along the inseam of the femur bones (think isometric magnetizing of the inner thighs towards the midline) will support stability… so that you may sink into stillness, even for a moment!
Once stability has been realized, there is a way in which the YANG element of this shape dissolves into the somatic wisdom of YIN. You can unravel here, allowing the shoulder blades to soften and descend off the spine, the glutes melt off the backpoint of the sitting bones, and the expression of the face unfolds into a subdued state.
May the melting of your heart
Invite eloquence of mind
& stillness despite chaos
International yoga teacher Kali Basman enriches the paradigm of Yin Yoga to integrate distinct aspects of Self into an innate wisdom practice to awaken a rich inner life and radiate with ritual. Her offering honors Yin Yoga as a tool to surrender to our intrinsic wholeness. On the textured path of mindful healing, Kali is celebrated for her integration of the 5 Elements and Chinese Meridian Theory with self-inquiry, embodied Anatomy, Buddhist Philosophy of Equanimity, and sharp intellect.
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