Elements of Ease: Yield

As a former school teacher, it's ingrained in my behavior to find connections and create a scaffold to inform the way I teach yoga.  When I first moved to Portland, my class schedule was filled with 4 Restorative yoga classes a week at 3 different studios. (Later it evolved to 5 classes at 5 different studios.)  The environment, vibe and props were all different at these places, but the purpose of teaching Restorative yoga was the same: to provide a respite from the world in order to face the challenges that we are presented with on a daily basis. 

In my mind, I usually had a running checklist of all the necessary pieces and parts that I made sure to touch upon: relax the body, deepen the breath, find spaciousness in the mind, remember your innate wisdom, to feel an inner radiance.  A tall order to fill for sure, but through guidance, space and stillness, this is possible - on some days.  

One day, after perusing old journals and notebooks, I realized that this mini-checklist that I used to teach Restorative yoga, was actually directly tied to the subtle body anatomy of the Koshas.  These five layers that make up an individual being, that inform and influence the way that we show up in the world, were the layers through which I meant to guide a student.

It was from this new understanding and awareness of the Koshas that I created the Five Elements of Ease - a teaching tool that can be used as support within a singular pose and for the class as a whole. 

The first kosha is Annamaya kosha and refers to the physical body.  In Restorative yoga, the body is meant to relax and release tension, in order to find ease and spaciousness.  Inspired by the work of Donna Farhi, I stumbled upon the word Yield, thinking that this was what best described the action that the body was doing.  And so the first Element of Ease is Yield. 

It has only been recently that my knowledge and understanding of the word Yield has taken on a whole new dimension.  Through my participation in the online course Emotional Literacy for Yoga Teachers lead by Livia Cohen-Shapiro, I've come to learn that Yield is the very first movement pattern that our bodies experience in utero.  Yield is the body's response to actually being able to receive support and in that receiving the body rests.  In Restorative yoga classes, we don't need to rely on the muscles and bones to keep us held, in fact, the joints rest in flexion and our bodies open, sensation is subtle in terms of 'stretching' and any discomfort will deter the physiological process of relaxation.  Yield allows us to rest in our watery-like nature, mimicking the fluidity of the womb and perhaps even providing the same warmth, comfort and security.  When we Yield we become more present to the ground on which we are supported, more present to the dynamic release of stress and present to what might arise when we allow ourselves to let go.

It's from this movement pattern that that we enter into a state of being. A state of being is not something that you do, but it comes from a sense of allowing, accepting and receiving.  There's no goal or standard that's trying to be achieved, other than welcoming the moment filled with subtle sensation, breath or stillness.  It's in this state that the healing can begin.  

Yield is the doorway into exploring our wild, ever-changing internal life.  As we cross that threshold time and time again, we build our own capacity to self-soothe and find an inner respite that truly allows us to show up courageously one day at a time. 

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