A Yin Series for Spring
by Sarah Manning, 01-Oct-2019
Feeling a little restless? Then it could be the transition from Winter to Spring, help ease your mind and body into the new season with this nurturing Yin sequence
The Chinese believe that the seasons have a direct influence on our mind, body and hence the organs of the body, with relative excess qi and blood in different organs, meridians and collaterals in different seasons.
In spring the extra qi and blood heads to the liver organ, you can see it as the yang qi in the body starts expanding and growing and moving to disperse upwards and outwards. From a mental perspective, you feel growth, expansion, ideas that start embracing new opportunities and allowing an enthusiastic energy to flourish.
But be warned, the Chinese ancients have an old saying, for good health, you are best “Muffling the body in spring and freezing the body in autumn” – so wear the proper amount of clothing to keep the body warm to resist wind and cold, allows the human body conform gradually to the spring climatic changes.
So, the Liver, Gall bladder and the Spring energy is sensitive to wind and draughts and you might also notice disturbances of the Gall Bladder during 11pm to 1am and for the Liver 1am to 3am (so a night on the town with plenty of wine – you might well wake in the middle of the night).
So in this series of five yin postures, we will stimulate the connective tissue along the path of the Liver meridian and provide breathing and meditations that echoes that theme of growth and expansion.
1. Wide Knee Child Pose (Tadpole)
A good starting point to find the ground and bring your mind to the mat.
In this pose I have chosen not to have props and keep it simple. Take care with those with knee issues and support your body weight as needed to take the pressure out.
Breathing: Soft Chui or Golden Thread breath: Passively in through the nose and soft, slow, steady, smooth exhale through pursed lips.
Feeling the body soften as you exhale. This is a descending energy bringing you to the mat – and nurturing your foundation ready to grow.
2. Shoe Lace
Folding left leg over right – feel the pressure along the inner leg and groin. If there is tightness in the hips (or pain in your knees, sit on a folded blanket. Alternatively sit with legs crossed (NB: care with hip replacements).
Apana Mudra Link thumb to middle two fingers – little and index straight
Gertrud Hirschi (in Mudras: Yoga in your Hands) suggests that used regularly this mudra stimulates the liver and "The power of the liver gives a person patience, serenity, hope and a vision for the future."
Repeat the other side. And then release the hips coming onto your hands and knees, close your eyes and move with a simple cat/cow or as your intuition suggests.
Before starting this pose, get a feel for the meridian path of the Liver. The liver meridian begins at the inside of the nail of the big toe and runs along the top of the foot. It climbs the front of the ankle and up the inside of the leg until the pubic area. From here it curves around the external genitalia and goes into the lower abdomen where it enters the liver and gall bladder. Rising higher it branches into several directions with one branch connecting to the lung meridian. Rising still higher it follows the throat and connects with the eyes before branching again – one across the cheek and circles the lips with the higher one crosses the forehead to the crown where it links with the GV meridian.
See how the Dragon pose finds a way to follow the path from the foot to the chest. Then, use the breath to "brush and clear" with your awareness. Inhale up the meridian and exhale back down. The Chinese phrase "yi tao, qi tao" comes in handy here and translated suggests – where the mind/intention goes, qi follows.
So, from hands and knees step left foot to hands and slide the right foot/knee back. Feel appropriate pressure to the groin to the left and an open tension to the right. Chest can rest on your left thigh. Hands to the floor or on blocks. If you are hypermobile you might like to have a bolster under the back thigh to lean into. Neck issues keep the alignment and draw the crown of the head forward and up.
Often when I practice Dragon Pose, I pause between the left and right side, to lie in Savasana and feel the energetic changes that the pose has given and then repeat on the other side and feel again.
Finding a comfortable seated Butterfly. I love the noodles supporting my shins. You might also like to have a folded blanket under your pelvis if your hamstrings are tight.
The Wood element contains the power and pleasure of springtime, of new beginnings, of tackling and shaping visions of the future.
"Let us close our eyes and imagine:
A walk in nature, perhaps a nearby woodland… be with your family… appreciate the flowers… and scenery around you (pause)… Together with your family, imagine yourself begin to skip – feeling youthful and light… maybe beginning to sing and dance… Feel a sense of lightness… Freedom… See the sunlight in shafts of light enchanting the scenery in glades… Feel the gentle breezes and hear the stirring of the branches above your head… See the bright fresh new leaves… hear the birds calling excitedly from the boughs above… Enjoy a sense of harmony with the nature."
Rest in Savasana and allow the effects of the postures, breathing and visualisation to resonate through your being.
Sarah Manning was trained by Bernie Clark and has been teaching yin yoga teacher training since 2008 in Shanghai, Australia and Singapore.
Reference for further exploration of this theme:
- Bernie Clark: The Complete guide to Yin Yoga
- Bernie Clark: www.yinyoga.com
- Ted Kaptchuk OMD – The Web That has no weaver – Chapter 3 – The Organs of the Body – Liver and Gallbladder characteristics
- Mudras by Gertrud Hirschi – Apan Mudra page 74
- Sarah Powers – Insight Yoga – Chapter 8 – The Liver and Gallbladder
- “The Taoists thought a healthy liver chi so central to well-being that they nicknamed it “the general of the army”. It is the military leader who excels in strategic planning, making sure the flow of energy within us happens harmoniously.; Liver chi co-ordinates and regulates the movement of chi everywhere within us, which is responsible for creating an easy-going disposition and internal atmosphere.
- Liver chi balances the emotions. When we have a liver chi imbalance, we have a propensity for uneven, irregular emotions; chronic anger; explosive impulsivity; a defence of personal boundaries and awkward social behaviour.
- When we are experiencing liver chi imbalances it is helpful to diminish our preoccupation with our irritations and gently turn to our feelings. Increase our sensitivity towards ourselves and how to stay attentive and connected to our bodies.
- A healthy Liver chi is related to our capacity to make plans and put them into action, exerting a sense of control. The essential feature is flexibility and an ability to change and adapt. When there is frustration in the system it is hard to think or plan.
- An excess of liver/gallbladder chi we tend to make rash decisions and when depleted we experience hesitation and timidity.