Photo credit: Aoife Moriarty. Photo taken in Domaine de Mournac, Carcassonne, April 2019.

As per Richard Bach’s wise words “we teach best what we most need to learn”.

My first experience of Yin Yoga was in August 2015 on a retreat with Sue and Pete in Yoga Evolution Portugal.

Three days into the retreat, thanks to a 2-hour morning Yang practice, and a 90-minute evening Yin practice, I began to feel my energy levels rising and improving, to a level and quality of energy the likes of which I had no memory of feeling in my adult life.

Quite simply I felt full. I felt grounded, peaceful, and full of energy. Not the frenetic kind I was used to, but an energy I would describe as source energy, or lifeforce energy. Different altogether to feeling energised by deadlines, sales targets, caffeine, or a race to keep on top of the never-ending to-do list.

This was my original inspiration to pursue Yin Yoga teacher training. Up until this point I had practiced and trained to teach Ashtanga almost exclusively, but this experience led me down a new path.

My natural disposition is much more Yang than Yin. I estimate that I spent 25+ years from about 5 to 30 primarily functioning from and relying on my masculine side, and while this has served me greatly in life in accordance with much of what we are supposed to achieve, it has not served me energetically. Nor has not served my spirit, my inner child, my wholeness, or my health.

This year has been ungrounding for all of us. For those of us who are self-employed the fear associated with the uncertainty, lack of financial security, and the inability to plan for or predict the future has repeatedly reared its head, leading at times to mental exhaustion, as the ‘ordinary thinking mind’ clings to its attempt to plan, organise, forecast, and impose certainty. It has also felt much more difficult to afford oneself necessary breaks.

I took this first photo on Saturday, having decided I would embark on a ‘retreat in place’ for a week. I often remind myself just how easy it is to replicate at home the likes of the retreat I have returned to many times in Yoga Evolution Portugal.

Sure, you don’t have the beautiful setting, the excellent teachers guiding the practice and holding the space, the Portuguese weather, or the talented vegan chefs, when you replicate a retreat from home, but there are pros also to doing your own self-practice, tuning into your exact needs on a given day, and of course saving a day of air and bus travel either side.

I made the decision to do this ‘retreat in place’ on Saturday, and then on Sunday I decided to take down the Christmas decorations and do a little re-org of my house.

By Monday, I was allowing myself only the yoga practice elements of the retreat, because I had decided that all the admin and website work simply could not wait, and that maybe this retreat in place could happen either end of a day spent in front of my laptop.

It felt like everyone was back to work, and even though I had not really taken a break or rested over Christmas, that I too must return to the grindstone.

Thankfully and faithfully, however, my Yin practice began to do its work. During my practice last night, the message to ‘Please slow down’ rang loud and clear, and the protests from the ordinary thinking mind seemed frivolous in comparison.

The following are obvious questions, but they are far too easily forgotten or ignored.

What is the point in running and rushing if we are doing it from place of depletion? What is the point in attempting to create when we have drained our inner creative well? What if all it does is cause us to run in the wrong direction? To create at a level far inferior to that we are capable of? To invest our energy where we should not be investing it? Or more commonly, to simply result in grooves being worn on the same old treadmill, the same old hamster wheel, which is not taking us anywhere?

This is why I practice and teach Yin Yoga, and why I have so deep a respect for the practice.

Slowing down, pausing, and feeling inwards may seem like a luxury in a world in which everything is encouraging us to move faster, leap higher, and constantly ‘better’ ourselves.

It may not be as much of a necessity to everyone as it is to those who like me require regular, firm, and tangible reminders to slow down. Some people are naturally more in tune with the Yin side of their nature, whether or not they have practices to support it.

However, given the frenetic pace that most of us have absorbed from an early age, I would wager that perhaps it IS a practice that you need in your life. We must balance all the doing, striving, and achieving with being, surrendering and believing we are enough. Otherwise, we may find ourselves doing and achieving the wrong things; pulled by the priorities of others while unclear on our own, and, showing up for all of it less energised and less grounded than we owe ourselves and others.

All that said, I am going to retreat in place for several days. I will still be teaching scheduled classes as usual, as teaching these lovely regular classes energises and fills me, but I will be stepping away from screens otherwise, and reaping the enjoyment of all the little house improvement projects I channeled my energy into over Christmas! 😊

I’ve done many 3 or 4-day retreats in place over the last few years, although mostly in West Cork, or in places where I was near the sea, and physically distanced from my own space. This will be the first one I embark on in my own home. The perfect challenge for the year that’s in it!

If you fancy planning your own mini retreat in place do let me know if you would like some ideas.