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Ulrica Norberg Develops A Modern Female Perspective On Yoga

Ulrica Norberg described her 10th book, Yin Yoga: An Individualized Approach to Balance, Health, and Whole Self Well-Being as her most confident. Released in April, Yin Yoga combined artistic photographs, tutorials, and personal memoir.

"I wanted to write a book that shows more of me, not just a how-to," said Norberg, who is the Scandinavian Director of ISHTA Yoga and coming to teach in their New York studio the weekend of June 6th. "I think the book’s a more mature me. I can be more transparent because I have been doing yoga for 20 years and have become a wife and mother."

Norberg, 40, lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with her husband and two young children. In a Skype interview, the attractive blonde -- joined by her cat Bella -- said her new book offers more than facts about yin, a slow form of yoga that nourishes introspection. Compared to more active yang and ashtanga, yin postures are mostly seated or reclined.

"Yin is about yielding, observing, and non-definition," she said. "When doing yin yoga, the focus lies on the experience rather than the goal. Yin can be such a mirror of what you need and finding out what you require. The postures are held for longer periods of time, so the focus lies on releasing tension by finding a more natural breath and increased flow of circulation in body, mind, and spirit.”

Yin can also be used to counteract vigorous exercise and fast-paced careers, Norberg said. In her 129-page paperback, she mentioned her irritable bowel syndrome, exacerbated by the "inner tension" of a hurried lifestyle. Yin helped her trust her body.

"We relate to people and people's personal stories," Norberg said. “My own stories and facts are here. It is the only yin book -- that I know of – that is written from a more personal, more modern female perspective and the only yin book that integrates ISHTA (Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra, and Ayurveda) yoga principles for a more individual focus."

Norberg’s spiritual journey began in New York, where she lived in the 1990s. Having escaped an abusive relationship, she discovered Zen meditation and yoga. In 2002, she tried yin yoga through Paulie Zink. Later, she was inspired by yin instructors Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers. In 2008, she took class with ISHTA founder Alan Finger. They shared a kinship.

"He doesn´t demand me to be a certain way or to convert to anything," Norberg said. "He encourages me to be myself and to integrate the yogic wisdom in my everyday modern life, so I can move better into a more balanced self."

As Norberg continued yin yoga, she added Arohan Awareohan, the Figure Eight Kirya she learned from Finger. On the inhale, she imagined energy moving from the pubic bone up the front of the body through the jugular notch. On the exhale, breath flowed from the back of the head over the skull through her neck and down the back of her body. By envisioning this figure eight, she was able to be still with less effort. She shared her observations with Finger, who provided his insights on spirit and the subtle body. He wrote the Foreword to Yin Yoga:

"Through the addition of ISHTA perspective and especially the kriya techniques, I personally believe yin yoga will evolve to an entirely new level, as they are the vehicles through which we can connect back to the spirit," Finger wrote.

Norberg included detailed instructions for Arohan Awareohan, previously never published. "Kriya works from fascia," she wrote. "Asana works from muscles."

In the book, Norberg analyzes fascia, the fibrous connective tissue found in and around every bone, muscle, and organ. Most dense around the joints, fascia responds to yin's gentle stress, different from a muscular stretch.

In straight-foward photographs, Norberg demonstrates yin moves, modifications, and counter poses. These postures mimick their yang counterparts with different names and intentions. Butterfly, for example, resembles a loose cobblers pose. Dragon looks like a drooping version of low lunge. Emphasis focuses less on muscles and bones, more on fascia elasticity.

"The intention of this book is to share some of the tools that have worked so well for me for finding my own true yoga," Norberg said. "And also to notice that yoga doesn't happen in only in the 'doing' aspects of life. Yoga happens in the now, when you learn how to 'be' in your spirit and body. I also hope I can inspire people to reflect about what tension is and what happens when tension gets wired into our beings, creating unbalanced patterns. With yin yoga, we can learn how to unwire the threads of tension. Gently and gradually."

Today, Norberg instructs classes, privates and teacher trainings in Europe and the United States. Her previous books and DVDs have covered topics from Hatha to Power Yoga. Yin Yoga took four months to write and has deepened her practice, she said.

Norberg will talk about her book at a signing from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at ISHTA Yoga Downtown, Thursday, June 5.

--Ann Votaw

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