Yin Yoga & Bondage

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I just got in from a half hour of doing Yin Yoga poses on the patio, in the “glop” as Ad puts our lovely Missouri humidity. I use the word ‘lovely’ deliberately, and not sarcastically: I happen to love it. Especially after the sun has started its descent, and the world lies in that special in-between light, the “gloaming,” or twilight. Doing yoga outside at such a time, with the humidity laying on me, warm and wet, is heavenly.

I had learned about Yin Yoga at one of my yoga classes at the college, of course, but had not incorporated it into my own practice, since most of the classes I attend focus on Vinyasa, or flow, yoga – a series of poses that are held for a short time and flow one into the other. Yin Yoga, on the other hand, is a slower type of yoga, with poses held for 1.5-5 minutes (you can watch a good introductory video at the link above if you are curious about it.) I enjoy flow yoga, and have a practice that I do in the mornings in particular as a “wake-up” session, but I have been searching for something to do to specifically increase my flexibility and stamina in bondage in ways that flow yoga has not.

It is no secret that many bondage ties look very similar to yoga poses, and I have often played with that – yoga and bondage – as a theme. My Assisted Yoga series is exactly that, a series of poses that W and I have “corrupted” with bondage, just for the sheer joy of combining the two practices. (I know, I haven’t posted very many yet, but I’ve got several in the wings, waiting. One of those you’ll see this Sunday.)

My Assisted Yoga poses are not intended to be actual yoga, nor to be the exact pose which they mimic, rather they are intended to be a collaboration between W and I: I often do new poses in front of him, and if he likes one, he’ll suggest a tie to “enhance” the pose. Sometimes it truly does enhance it and even makes the pose easier (in a way) to hold, others he deliberately challenges me to remain in the pose while he applies stress with rope.

Anyway, in my searches I accidentally and happily stumbled upon this piece of writing by Bendyyogagirl called Yin Yoga for Bondage. I had the distinct pleasure of having taken a class with her at Dark Odyssey last year, though during the class, as I mention, my mind was possibly as not on my poses as they should have been. But – that is part of the reason for this post now, as well.

See, in that post she discusses all the ways that Yin Yoga is good for a rope bottom:

“Yin Yoga is characterized by deep, static floor postures which are held for 1.5 – 5 minutes. In Yin Yoga, one works just short of his/her edge (how far you can move in any given direction), and stays still. After a minute or two, the muscles relax enough for the fascia and ligaments involved in the position to get appropriately stressed.”

This causes this to happen:

  • muscles relax
  • fascia is stretched
  • ligaments stretch
  • mobility in the joint that is being stressed increases
  • flexibility in the general area that is being stretched increases

All good stuff, when you consider what kinds of things we ask our bodies to do in bondage positions, right? (Or even just energetic sex!)

But she goes further (and sells me even more) by noting:

“…the discipline it takes to stay still even when the body is sending signals of discomfort is extremely difficult for many people to cultivate. We tend towards comfort, after all.

Add to that any thoughts that might be arising, thoughts like “This is bullshit” “I’m never going to get as flexible as I want” and “I suck”… long holds create opportunity to get to know one’s mind in ways one might be surprised to learn.

There’s an emotional component as well. If you are of a similar opinion as I, you believe the body holds memories, trauma, disappointment, etc. in tissues. The long holds of Yin Yoga literally give the body time to release issues from tissues, and while this is wonderful, it can also be uncomfortable.

All of these things that arise during a Yin Yoga practice have the potential to arise during bondage. ALL OF THEM. The physical discomfort, the awareness of thought, and the emotional release. I can say from my own experience, that my Yin Yoga practice has done much more for me as a rope bottom than my Vinyasa and Bikram practices – not because the forms aren’t as good for my body, but rather because Yin Yoga is contemplative and gives me a different way to cultivate mindfulness and connect with my body.”

Exactly! This is what I’m talking about, when I talk about the connections between Yoga, Meditation & BDSM. Yoga – and in particular Yin Yoga – teaches me patience, and mindfulness, and fosters that connection with my body that is so coveted and essential to me in bondage – that is why I do bondage.

Besides, you know, the hot sex.

Along with that article, I also ran across this post that refers to a Facebook page called 50 Shades of Yoga. (Hey, they stole my idea! Oh wait, it’s not exactly an original idea.) The unfortunate publicity-pandering title of the book/group aside, I was very interested in the at-times virulent responses in various online yoga forums to the idea of melding yoga with bondage – and on an even more subliminal level, sexuality.

To be “true” yogis and yoginis, we must apparently deny that fundamental part of ourselves, at least during our yoga practice.

Yeah, I cry bullshit too.

But that rant aside, what struck me this past weekend, as I did my Yin Yoga practice in the hotel room in Madison in preparation for some challenging rope ties, and later as W and I planned and executed another “Assisted Yoga” session, was that all those people shouting so loudly about how bondage takes away from the purity of yoga, and is a distraction from “true” yoga, don’t get it at all.

See, holding a pose, for me, is often a battle of wills. My mind’s will – to hold onto the here and now, to think think think all the time, and my yoga will – the will to just be in the moment. To experience my body, to drop down into my body and find that place of quietude, of acceptance, of calm. The distractions to achieving that are myriad and many – traffic outside, the work I have to do in an hour, my worries about a relative, thoughts of schedules and writing and failing and sex and the Guys and the dog – it goes on and on. There are also physical distractions. My breathing. The ache in a muscle, the pull of a tendon. An itchy nose, watery eyes, the need to move – has it been 3 minutes yet?!?  And along with those distractions that most everyone experiences are physical distractions others may not have to contend with: my piercings.

It has become a source of pride to me that I have not removed them due to discomfort during running or yoga, even though W has given me permission to do so. And the reason I have not is simple: they are a part of me. And as such, just like my too-tight IT Bands, and that damned muscle in my left triceps that inhibits my range of motion in that arm – they are part of my practice. Part of getting beyond the physical discomforts, while, quixotically, embracing them.

And this is exactly what one must do in an “assisted yoga” pose. One must get beyond the rope, the discomfort, the aches, the distraction of the rope (or cuffs, or chain.) It is a part of the yoga experience. And I believe deepens my practice. Possibly not in that moment of yoga and bondage combined, but later, as I do my next pose, and I remember the mindfulness I employed when the rope was too tight, when the chain made me want to hitch myself up out of the my pose, when I really had to find that space inside to just be in the moment. Then I know the connection between WIITWD and what it is that I do.

And why I do it.

aftermath

Relaxing after a yoga-and-chains session.

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