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We all know that loving someone from a distance creates longing. What no one ever tells us is that witnessing harm from a distance can create despair.
Our interconnectedness results in a multinational consciousness that invites us into one another’s triumphs as well as our devastations. This heightened connection brings deeper compassion yet also a desperation to create solutions for situations that we cannot resolve.
On those days, I remind myself what I can do. I vote in literally every local and national election. I financially support campaigns amid redlining and gerrymandering. I consciously create community. I practice yoga in all of its forms. I do my best to be a good friend, wife, mom, and Gigi. I tell myself, lemme get clear on what I can do today, and that doesn’t include figuring out how to solve the world’s problems.
Instead, I give myself permission to be aware, to offer compassion to others, and to still honor myself by being in the radical present. Because if I’m not careful, empathy will rob me of the beautiful moments in my life by causing me to feel guilty for having them.
A slow yoga practice gifts me with the opportunity to turn inward, listen, and notice what I’m holding within myself. With this attunement to self, I step into my agency to breathe, to release the holding, to take a moment to connect to my body, my mind, and my spirit.
A Yin Yoga practice to tune into yourself in times of despair
May you find release in this practice.
Come to a seated position with a folded blanket or bolster beneath your bum so your hips are higher than your feet. Bring the bottoms of your feet together and let your knees bow out to the side. Allow your feet to be a comfortable distance from your pelvis. Fold forward to any degree, feeling free to round your back. For additional support for your upper body, you can bring a bolster vertically between your upper and lower body and rest your head on its short side (as in the photo) or turn it horizontally across your lap and drape your upper body over it. Stay here for up to 5 minutes.
To release, draw yourself up with ease and extend your legs straight in front of you.
From seated, shift yourself onto your left hip. Keep your legs at 45-degree angles to one another as you draw your left shin parallel to the long side of the mat and then draw your right foot toward the wall behind you until you feel sensation in the right hip flexors along the front of your right hip. Your right thigh will probably be parallel to your left shin. Still seated, slide a bolster under your left side body and place a block on the other side of it for a headrest. Lower your body onto the bolster as you thread your left arm between the block and bolster. Rest your right arm alongside your right ear. If you feel any tugging on your right knee, bring a blanket or block underneath it. Settle into this combination side opener and twist and stay here up to 4 minutes.
To release, bring the bottoms of your feet to the mat and hug your knees in. Roll onto the other side. Come back to center.
From lying, slowly sit and replace the bolster with another block to create an equal sign with the blocks parallel to one another—one for head support, the other for thoracic spine support. Lower yourself so your head and back rest on the blocks. Keep your knees bent.
If and when you feel ready, extend both legs long. Notice the opening across the upper body while grounding in the lower body. Stay for 5 minutes.
To release, drag your feet back toward your body and slide the blocks out to the side.
Let your arms fall to the sides and relax in Constructive Rest with the bottoms of your feet on the mat and knees bent for 1 minute.
From Constructive Rest, roll onto one side and come to hands and knees. Tuck all 10 toes and then walk your hands and body back to sit on your heels. If you need, bring the blocks beneath your hands and lean on them for support. Now is a good time to welcome sensations of challenge in acknowledgment that you are doing something amazing for yourself by stimulating all of the lower meridians that start or end in the feet. Stay here for 2 minutes.
From Toe Squat, untuck your toes and sit on or in between your heels in Seiza, also known as Thunderbolt or Hero Pose. Stay here for 1 minute.
From Seiza, keep your big toes together and bring your knees mat-width apart. This pose is part wide-knee Child’s Pose, part Frog Pose. If you’d like to separate your feet or change the direction of your feet to feel more depth in the stretch, go ahead and find your Goldilocks position. After 3 minutes, slide onto your belly to sense the echoes of the pose in your body.
Half Frog to Half Crushed Wing
From Tadpole, find your way Sphinx arms. Draw your right knee toward your right elbow into Half Frog. Thread your left arm under your chest, palm up for Crushed Wing. Extend your right arm forward as your counterlevel. Stay for 3 minutes.
Cat Pulling Its Tail
From Half Crushed wing, come into Cat Pulling Its Tail by continuing to thread your left arm under as you roll onto your left side. Prop yourself up onto your left arm. Bend your left leg and bring your right hand to your left foot. If you cannot reach your left foot, extend the length of your arms with a strap. Keep your right knee bent and on the ground. You can add a bolster under your right knee, shin, and foot and a block under your head for more support. Stay for 2 minutes.
From Cat Pulling Its Tail, come face down on the mat, bend your elbows, and rest your head on your stacked hands for 1 minute.
Repeat Half Frog, Half Crushed Wing, and Cat Pulling Its Tail on the other side.
From Crocodile, come to lying on your back with the bottoms of your feet together and your knees bowed out. Feel free to bring a bolster under your thighs or feet to increase or decrease the sensations in your hips. Feel for the support of the ground against your back as you release open in your hips. Stay here for 5 minutes.
Bring the bottoms soles of your feet to the mat and allow your hips to rest neutrally in Constructive Rest for a few moments.
Legs up the Wall
Come to a wall or sofa. Bring your legs up the wall or onto the sofa. You can bring a bolster or folded blanket under your bum. Cover your eyes with an eye pillow or the edge of a blanket to give yourself darkness. Stay here for 3 minutes. Continue resting here for your final relaxation pose.
See also: More Yin Yoga Poses and Practices
About our contributor
Tamika Caston-Miller is an E-RYT 500 with a special interest in yoga for renewal, transformation, and social justice. Her yoga journey began in 2001 with a home practice. She now holds certifications from YogaOne Studios, Yogaworks, Kripalu School of Yoga, Judith Hansen Lasater, and Paul Grilley. Tamika’s teaching and practice have been informed by chronic pain and injuries, the very human battle between shame and compassion, the quest for ancestral healing, and love for the practice and philosophy of yoga.