Try this right now: Be a seahorse. Stand on one leg and let the other float off the ground behind you. Tuck your elbows into your ribs. Extend your forearms straight ahead. And start wiggling your fingers.
This was the very first pose I did during a three-day yin yoga workshop earlier this week. “Chi, chi,” our leader chanted, encouraging even more life force into our seahorse. I stared in bewilderment at the yin founder himself, Paulie Zink. He and his workshop were nothing like I expected.
How did the art of stillness turn into the art of silliness? And weren’t we supposed to be glued to the mat in solemn, long holds accompanied by the sound of our breath?
He reminded us again and again, “yin isn’t dead yoga.” We flowed. We paused and allowed. We emulated the elements. We embraced our animal spirits.
My seahorse turned into a parading penguin. The next day I crawled like a bear while transforming my breath into low growls. I learned to move steady like earth, flow like water, spring like wood, hop like fire and be rigid like metal.
I had signed up for the course to learn to be quieter, slower, and more mindful. And Master Zink taught me these things by encouraging me to be more alive. Alive with joy. Alive with energy. And most of all, alive with feeling.
Because there is stillness in motion. And when you really feel, you’ll find you’re really present. And when you let go of trying so hard – letting go of what a pose should look like – you discover how quickly ease and joy blossom.
These lessons however simple have changed my world on and off the mat. (These along with “T-rex” pose, which is kind of like a stomping seahorse advancing forward, because how can you not smile while doing this?)