Friday, July 1, 2011

Blazing A Trail

John and I took an impromptu trip to Sesquicentennial State Park on Tuesday afternoon.  It had been a stressful morning full of running errands and dealing with some business issues, so we decided spur-of-the-moment that we needed to be outside in the soothing arms of Mother Nature.  As always, she delivered and fed our souls in a way that few other things can. 

It was already HOT outside when we arrived.  We weren't as prepared to hike as we normally would be... no backpack full of trail maps, water and snacks.  We simply parked the car and walked to the lake.

Gazing out at the water, geese, canoes, lily pads and trees, we almost immediately began to feel the stress of the past few hours slowly start to dissolve.  We walked slowly around the edge of the lake and found ourselves on a trail marked by white blazes.

We walked and talked and followed the white blazes in a carefree way not really knowing how long the trail would go for or even what our destination would be.  I remarked to John that it was nice not knowing where we were going or how long it would take to get there. "It's kind of like Yin Yoga," he replied.  We walked along in silence for a bit and I thought about how true his statement was.

In a nutshell, Yin Yoga (originally called "Taoist Yoga) is an extremely beneficial and balancing practice. It targets the connective tissues, such as the ligaments, bones, and even the joints of the body that normally are not exercised very much in our more active asana practices. Most styles of yoga emphasize internal heat and the lengthening and contraction of our muscles. Yin Yoga is a perfect complement to these styles, as it generally targets the connective tissues of the hips, pelvis, and lower spine. 

A Yin Yoga practice can at times be quite challenging. We are asked to remain in the postures anywhere from one to five minutes (or more) to give the deeper connective tissue time to untangle, which is not always comfortable.  Sitting with such discomfort can be intense - kind of like hiking a trail without a map. We don't know how many miles we'll walk, how long it will take us to get there, or where we will end up. We're exploring the trail (pose) breath-by-breath, creating our own map and letting it all unfold moment by moment.  It can be very liberating and powerful!

In his amazing book The Yoga of Breath, Richard Rosen talks about "mapping the body".  Like Richard, I like to think that every time we get on our yoga mats or sit in meditation we are akin to intrepid explorers setting out on expedition to blaze a new trail through our inner landscape.  Using our breath, awareness and the sensations we encounter, we gather information, make measurements, and create the outlines and details of our own personal map. 

Richard says:
"I can't really say what your map will look like, but it's unlikely you'll ever really finish drawing it.  It's better to think of it as a perpetual work in progress, changing in both its general outlines and in its specific details as you yourself venture more deeply into the country of the Self.  Don't be surprised either - or discouraged - if one day you realize that your map is outdated and that you need to start it all over again.  Drawing and then discarding maps is just part of the business of answering the question: Who am I?"

Each time we commit to looking inward, whether it's through asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques) or meditation, we have an opportunity to be explorers and blaze new trails!  Each posture, breath or moment of silence is a powerful and liberating opportunity to open to the mystery in front of us.

Where will your trail take you? How long will it take? Where will you end up? Try to live the questions themselves and love the mystery.

Want more information on Yin Yoga?  Visit this website: 

Join me on Wednesday afternoons at 4:45 and Sunday afternoons at 4:00 for a delicious Yin Yoga experience!  Visit for more info.

Until next time...

"Each of us had the right to speak of his coastline, his mountains, his deserts, none of which conforms to those of another.  Individually we are obligated to make a map of our own homeland, our own meadow.  We carry engraved in our hearts the map of the world as we know it.  Gazing at the map, I begin to see a portrait of myself.  All the diversity of the world is intimated on the parchment, even as this diversity is intimated within me.    An aura of remoteness hovers about its contours, as it does about my head, clarifying what I see.  Both map and myself cling to the invisibility of what we represent.  Nor is the tension between us that of myself and it, but of the merging of these.  The map and myself are the same." (James Cowan, A Mapmakers Dream)

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