Examining yoga and community in the digital space with Jeny Dawson of Zen Soul Balance (ZSB)
Recently, I was asked to provide my perspective on the relevance/importance of Yin Yoga in the digital space (amidst the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated social distancing) for the Leverage Style Journal. The following are excerpts from my recent interview:
Matthew Yunker, Hunter & Maddox
In order to better understand the power of Yin Yoga and its relevance in the current period of social distancing – as well as the larger trend of virtual, home yoga practice – I invited Yin specialist, Jeny Dawson of San Diego, CA-based Zen Soul Balance, to share her thoughts. The following is Jeny’s candid perspective on the different styles of yoga; Yin Yoga’s unique capacity to cultivate balance and resilience; best practices for developing a home practice; as well as building community in the digital space:
Matthew: Will you please provide a little bit about your background, as well as your perspective on the various styles of yoga and why you chose to specialize in Yin Yoga?
Jeny: I have been practicing yoga over 20 years – many different styles – and was first introduced to yang forms of yoga…active, dynamic movements targeting muscles…but it was Yin Yoga that helped me learn more about my body than any other exercise I’ve ever done. It helped me to truly understand balance, with regard to physical health. At one point, I thought all exercise was equal and that a combination of cardio, strength training and stretching was what I needed for optimal physical health. It wasn’t until I traveled to Bali, Indonesia for Teacher Training that I had an “awakening” and realized I was missing something…. the “other half.” You’ve heard of yin-yang, right? Half is yin- and the other half is yang – together it’s complete, “whole.” Not all exercise works the body in the same way. There is a difference between “yang muscle engagement” and “yin fascia release.”
In Yin Yoga, practitioners hold postures for long periods – usually 2-7 minutes – allowing time and gravity to do the work. Yin targets the connective tissues – fascia, bones, ligaments, tendons, joints, vertebral discs, etc., by creating shapes. One of the characteristics that sets Yin Yoga apart from other styles of yoga is the functional approach. Every-bone-in-every-body is different, and everyone’s skeleton is unique. This means that every shape that you create with your body will look different than anyone else’s, and that is the beauty of a functional practice. Yin Yoga focuses on functional effects of each posture – how does it feel in your body, rather than how does it look. There is an objective, a “target area” that you intend to therapeutically stretch, massage, compress. etc.. As a teacher, it is my job to encourage students/clients to explore their body and be creative with use of props, etc., ultimately to find their sweet spot – a mild, to moderate level of sensation to achieve an effective stretch.
Yin Yoga forces us to be still. It is a slow and meditative practice. And for some people, this stillness can be excruciatingly painful, and not in a physical way (…..yoga should never be painful by the way – physical or mental!). When holding a posture for a long time (like we do in Yin), we stimulate the energetic channels which can help to move stagnation in transitions. It goes like this…. A posture is released, subtle energy shifts occur (sometimes noticeable, sometimes not) and we enter the “rebound” for moments of stillness, according to the Grilley model – and then yang activations to move the energy. Quite often when we are dealing with unresolved emotions like sadness or anger, we tend to suppress or find ways to occupy our minds to avoid confronting our emotional discomforts. Unfortunately, what happens over time, is our well-buried emotions begin to surface and manifest in physical forms such as body pains, headaches, insomnia, and indigestion; or the stagnation can transform into negative emotions like jealousy, frustration, indecisiveness, paranoia, and depression. Though it may sound daunting at first (yes it can get messy diving inwards), but once the layers are pealed back and the “baggage” is gone, there is an emotional and energic release that creates internal space for healing. I can speak for it myself, I remember like it was yesterday the first time it happened to me. Sitting at home on my living room floor in a reclining twist and bam – out of nowhere (in a good state of mind, I thought…..) the tears started flowing, emotions were scattered and thoughts were flooding in. I won’t go into much detail other than it was an unexpectedly profound practice that ended with a huge sigh of relief and a lot of tears.
With regard to my formal yoga education, I have gone through extensive Yin trainings and have researched the science behind Yin Yoga over the years. I owe a debt of gratitude to my teachers, Paul Grilley – the founder of Yin Yoga as we know it today – and Joe Barnett, a senior Yin Yoga trainer who has apprenticed for two decades under Paul Grilley and has spent 10 years connecting to thousands of aspiring yoga teachers – he travels internationally to offer workshops and trainings under the school name of “Yin Variations,” the program that stays true to the most updated Grilley Method of Yin. I’ve had the honor and privilege not only to train and study under both of these amazing Master Teachers, but also to assist Joe Barnett in teacher trainings. Most recently I have partnered with Joe and will be offering an extension of his Yin Variations trainings through ZSB to reach a broader community.
Matthew: If the solitary home practice is complementary to the communal experience, Sound complements the Yin practice, right?
Jeny: Absolutely. Add Sound Healing – crystal singing bowls, chimes, gongs, and other musical instruments – to compliment the shapes, and wow…it is a profound experience that is hard to explain. A few years ago I started experimenting (in my own body) in Yin postures using vibrations from a variety of instruments. Read Full Article ….
Originally published by Leverage May 4, 2020