Kristen and I met at one of my meditation practices. I knew she taught yoga, but didn't know, in depth, the style she specialized in.
One day, after a year of knowing Kristen, I asked if I could attend a private Yin yoga class. I had taken Yin yoga years ago from another studio and really needed to unwind and take an hour to release pent up tension. Kristen greeted me at the door and welcomed me to her yoga studio. I stepped into her yoga room and couldn't wait to get started.
It was the most relaxing class I have ever had. Kristen has the most soothing voice and her gentle and kind personality makes her a very good instructor and healer. To those who are not familiar with Yin yoga and why learning to let go of old energies that no longer serve you is integral to good physical and emotional health, definitely check out my interview with Kristen below.
Sara: We often hear about the more Yang version of yogas, such as hot yoga or hatha yoga, but many may not be familiar with Yin yoga. Please tell us more about this form of yoga.
Kristen: Every style of yoga has its own "medicine" that balances our internal energies, and will have a particular effect on our body and mind. Yang styles of practice embody the principle energy of the sun and relate to the sympathetic nervous system. They energize and invigorate us with movement and warmth. In contrast, the Yin style of practice invites us to embody the energies of the moon and strengthen our parasympathetic nervous system.
Yin yoga works with passive postures that cool, ground, and nourish our bodies and minds. You can think of it like water overflowing in a vessel. It restores us when we are depleted and helps us reconnect with our Feminine nature. This nature is receptive and allows life to move through us like a river, rather than to force life with our egoic will. Sometimes we need help to let go.
The deeper medicine of this practice will reveal itself to every individual student, but in essence, it teaches us how to hold space for ourselves. At the end of the day, we are the ones responsible for our lives and we need to slow down and become present to know who we are inside.
Ideally, we have both Yin and Yang energies and practices in our lives. But the truth is, our society is out of balance. Many students come to my Yin yoga classes when they are burned out or dealing with a healing crisis. They need the cooling and grounding energies of Yin to come back into balance.
My personal journey with Yin yoga has guided me into greater awareness of the Feminine principles that our culture has rejected. I'm completely humbled and inspired by students who realize a "new" part of themselves through practice, and I've seen it transform people's lives in a real and tangible way.
Sara: Why do you think it is important to let go of the "energies" that no longer serve you?
Kristen: All emotions, thoughts, and memories have life within us. They have an energy and a momentum that operates on a subconscious level of the mind. Meditation studies have shown that 97% of stress comes from the subconscious and unprocessed emotions. This shows up clearly through patterns of stress and imbalances in our bodies.
We carry not only our own emotions and memories, but the stories, traumas, strengths, and weaknesses of our family and culture. These "energies" will continue to have life within us until we bring what is buried into the light of consciousness.
The healing process has to be conscious and we need to walk through it with a light to see in the darkness. That is only something a person can find within. Healing is physical, energetic, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. It leads us to the fundamental questions of "What is my relationship with life? How do I feel about being alive on the earth?" The root is our relationship to the mystery.
Of course, this perspective comes from the ancient wisdom and traditions that revered the Feminine. This way of perceiving often doesn't fit into the paradigm that our society operates within. But, many people are pushed far enough that they decide to paint outside the lines and ask the deeper questions.
For me, it's the hero's journey. There is no greater purpose than to realize the true nature of the self above and beyond the status quo. And this is one of the energies that we need to let go of because it's a glass ceiling.
Sara: From your experience, have you noticed a clear correlation between physical pain and emotional pain from your students? Please expand on this.
Kristen: Absolutely, physical and emotional pain are completely interrelated. I have seen this time and time again with students who have chronic physical patterns and pain. I also went through this myself with chronic pain and it took me four years to find the root cause in a buried emotion from the past. I prepared for many years to hold space for this atomic emotion to rise up from its repression, be seen, and eventually dissolve into the ocean of life. It was a powerful teacher for me.
We have to work on the subconscious level of the mind and this takes bravery and sincerity of heart. Yoga is not meant to be understood as a physical practice, it is a preparation to go into the deeper layers of the mind, to heal our samskaras (psychological patterns), and eventually go beyond the mind into greater self-realization. When we heal ourselves, we heal our ancestry and contribute to the collective well-being. If we want to mature spiritually, we have to do our inner work. There's no way around it.
Sara: Aside from engaging in a regular practice, are there other exercises (ie. journaling) a student can engage in to further enhance the effect of Yin yoga?
Kristen: Yin yoga is an embodiment of stillness, receptivity, and patience. It's to be connected to our wise inner nature. We can practice this through every single thing that we do. That's how it becomes real and expressed in our lives.
Sara: Lastly, you have been a fan of Amaterasu Beauty. What is your favourite Amaterasu makeup and why?
Be sure to check out Kristen and her yoga classes, which are also available online and through Zoom.
Kristen Ann McCarthy
Yoga + Meditation + Healing Arts
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