During the first several years of my yoga journey, I was fixated on flow. I craved the heat, the sweat and the rush of endorphins that come with exploring the myriad shapes my body can create on the mat. One day, I mistakenly signed up for a yin class, and was taken aback when I stepped into a room with the shades pulled down and the sound of Tibetan bells on the stereo. My mind — a mind attached to a strong sweaty class — was sorely disappointed, but I felt a pulling of recognition around my heart. I don’t remember what poses we practised, but I remember the storm of chatter in my head, and me constantly staring at the harmless teacher with murder in my eyes. I also remember what she said: “I used to think flow was the way to get stronger, but I realised that it was with yin that I learned true strength — that of the mind.” Those words have been etched in my mind ever since, and served as the turning point in my practice.
As my yoga journey shifted from the physical to something subtler yet so much greater, I have learned that the body does have its limits, but the mind is limitless. It is only by going inside that allows us to connect to that strength, and for me, there is no better way to tune into that than with a yin yoga practice — seemingly placid on the outside, yet so effective in paving the way for us to connect to our depths of inner wisdom and resolve.
Six years on, I now sit in the very place of that teacher. I recognise the fidgeting and clenched jaws, and I too have received countless dirty looks from yogis yelling bloody murder in their minds. But at the same time, I have witnessed tears, the softening of resistance that comes from breathing into tension instead of fighting against it, and the emotional breakthroughs that come from learning to be vulnerable and sitting with discomfort. Holding the space for such deep change humbles me beyond measure, and it is the driving force behind why I teach. We don’t live in a society where more of us need to stand on their hands; we live in one where more of us can realise that it’s okay to not always be okay, and that sometimes, the way to change is not to fight against, but to soften into.
See you on the mats.
Leigh will be leading a 30-hour Yin Yoga immersion/CET in October. Click here for details.
By Leigh Khoo