“If you choose to see everything as a miracle, then where you are right now is perfect. There is nowhere to run to; there is nothing else to do except be in this moment and allow what is to be. From that place of radical acceptance, major change can happen. The first step in any transformational experience is acceptance and surrender to the present moment, the way that it is. From that place we have the awareness, humility and power to change what is.”
— Mastin Kipp
The concept of surrender, for many, can be a strange one. In a society so focused on action and achievement, ambition and acceleration, surrender can be a very alien concept indeed. But just as night follows day, autumn and winter follow summer and spring, an element of surrender is inevitable in all that we do. Without sleep, we cannot function. Without giving, we cannot receive. In the same way, inaction is just as important as action, and learning to integrate this on a deeper level yields transformative results.
I remember well when I first discovered yoga, how excited I was about the notion of rest as a part of the practice. I clearly remember telling my friends, ‘Wow you even get to have a nap at the end, you should try it, it’s amazing!’. And despite learning since that time that savasana isn’t really meant to be nap time (although it can be if we’re very depleted, and it’s what we deeply need) but rather one of integration - the whole point of our practice - rest still forms a key component of yoga, and is so important.
In Yin yoga, surrender is the very essence of the practice, one of the key kernels of truth planted within. A very slow and introspective style of yoga, Yin is wildly different to it’s more yang counterparts - i.e. Vinyasa, Hatha, Ashtanga- although an aspect of yang still remains. If you picture the Yin/Yang symbol with the dot of black in the white segment and vice versa you’ll understand what I mean - one cannot exist without the other, there is an element of each intrinsically part of the supposed ‘opposite’, because in actual fact the two elements are not divisible, or two separate parts, but rather two sides of the same coin, one. The Chinese character for yin 陰 literally translates to “shady side (of a mountain)" and the Chinese character for yang 陽 "sunny side (of a mountain)”. It is only our way of thinking that creates this idea of separation.
In the Bhagavad Gita, a seminal Hindu scripture and guide to life, Krishna (representing divine consciousness/God/the universe/whatever guise you’d like to label it as) tells Arjuna (representative of us in our mortal coil and traversing our own inner battle of life):
“Concentrate on freeing yourself from the tyranny of the so-called pairs of opposites. Release yourself from always trying to evaluate and judge everything. Disentangle from your habit pattern of seeing things as good or bad, lovable or hateful, pleasant or painful and so forth.
The tendency to get trapped in apparent opposites is a common and debilitating malady. Instead, remain tranquil and centred in Self (Atma).”
— Bhagavad Gita
No mean feat. But Yin really gives us a chance to try and do this on a practical level - to take up residence in our body and remain tranquil and centered, despite a fluctuating mind. Most of the poses are relatively simple, and done seated or lying to enable you to let go as much as possible muscularly (the focus of Yin being a gentle stressing of the fascia and joints) and also concentrate on the mental aspect of the practice. It can be easy in this time to ‘check out’, to allow the mind to take you on a journey across time and space to everything from what happened this afternoon, to three weeks ago to ten years ago...back to what’s for dinner tonight, but with patience and practice we can begin to bring ourselves back to the present moment with the power of our will, breath and intention - the three essentials for anything we want in life.
“Surrender requires a lot of strength to be brave enough to follow the invisible into the unknown. Surrender the personal reactions of like and dislike that form inside your mind and heart. With the resultant clarity, look to see what is being asked of you by the situation unfolding in front of you.”
— The Surrender Experiment
Surrender for many holds connotations perhaps of relinquishing control, of losing, submissing, but this is far from the case - there lies great power in the ability to surrender, when necessary.
The goal of any kind of meditation isn’t not to feel, or to wrestle the mind into submission but rather to surrender and accept reality for what it is. On the eightfold (ashtanga) path to yoga the niyamas or inner observances include ishvara pranidhana or surrender to the divine, the bigger picture. This encourages us to let go of our narrow view of reality and entertain the idea that there is more happening that we can ever grasp or know, and that ‘I’, the ego, is not the be all and end all.
In Yin we can acknowledge this by allowing our thoughts to float to the surface...allowing ourselves to notice what emotions are presenting themselves...but then allow ourselves to bear witness to this without immediately reacting. Without trying to change, fix, attend to. Leaving precious time and space to notice, to integrate, to allow, to ultimately allow things to BE. Returning to being. A human being, not a human doing. This is where the true medicine in Yin lies - the radical act of allowing yourself time and space to be, just as you are, in the moment. Allowing yourself to feel, without the need to act. Allowing yourself to feel and in turn process, and soften, just as you are.
In a time like this, when our nervous systems are heightened and we are naturally rushing to try and make sense of our reality and find out ‘what next?’ in a bid to feel safe, what a tool to have. To be able to just be and to surrender to the present moment. And why not? The present moment is all we ever have really, and all we ever will.
If you’d like to experience the magic of Yin for yourself I’ll be offering a weekly online session on Zoom on Thursdays, 8-9:15pm, coupling Yin with Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep, a guided meditation perfect to get you ready for bed or send you to sleep. For more info & to register click here.