I’ve recently fallen in love with the practice of ‘Yin yoga’, so much so that I’m contemplating signing up for a Yin Teacher Training later this summer. Yet prior to my 200 hour Vinyasa/Ashtanga training a few months ago, I’d never stepped foot inside a Yin class. My initial cancer diagnosis had previously been the catalyst for me to start a regular yoga practice – and I’d automatically been drawn to the strength and energy of vinyasa. Once I found this style, I just stuck with it. As I flowed through each pose I loved how strong and healthy I felt – completely at odds with the cancer that was rapidly growing inside my body. I’d often catch myself quietly whispering encouragement to my heart, my limbs, my lungs; “we are too strong to die, we are going to get through this”. Together; mind and body.
Wisdom Of The Ancients: Yin and Yang
These stronger yoga styles (vinyasa, ashtanga, hot yoga, power yoga etc) are all considered primarily ‘yang’ as they are more focused on generating immense amounts of heat and energy within the body. The ancient Taoists claimed that all things, both animate and inanimate objects, can be broken down into primarily yin or yang characteristics. This process of breaking things down into two primary forces provided a context where the theory and notion of balance could be better understood. Yang is commonly expressed as extreme heat and energy. It’s also seen as the sun, and consists of male energy. In contrast, Yin is commonly expressed as cooling and passive. It is also considered to be reflected by the moon, and consisting of feminine energy.
Coming Back Into Balance
Since I’ve returned to work I’ve found it difficult to maintain a daily, energetic vinyasa practice. I leave the house at 7am so there isn’t much time to practice in the morning (my preferring time) and I often finish too late to get to a studio for a class. Plus I’m often shattered after work – I simply haven’t got the same amount of energy that I had a few months ago.
During my yoga training we had a number of Yin classes scattered throughout our timetable complementing the hours upon hours of vinyasa and ashtanga we were doing. The Yin classes focused more on slowing down the body, enhancing awareness and mindfulness, enabling us to make space to recover, repair and reflect.
What Exactly Happens During A Yin Class?
Although Yin has many of the same goals and objectives as any other yoga style; it directs the asana practice deeper into the connective tissues. Rather than moving rapidly from one pose to another, during a Yin class you slowly fold into a shape, soften your muscles, and find stillness – usually for 2-5 minutes. The opening of these deeper tissues often results in a physical sensation that can be a little uncomfortable to begin with whilst you fight against the tension. It’s all about breathing deeply into these areas and gently encouraging the muscle fibres and fascia to stretch a little more. Yin also tends to involve props so you are likely to use blocks, bolsters, and blankets – all of which support you as you relax into the poses.
Time To Slow Down & Release Tension
With all the extra time in each pose it’s easy to get caught up with your thoughts to begin with. In my first few classes I’d often end up thinking “how much longer do I have stay in this pose?” or “I think I’ll make ***** for dinner tonight”, but with practice I’ve been able to let go of these thoughts and find peace within each pose. I now love the feeling of my muscles surrendering to gravity and my mind fully relaxing. As you can tell, I’m a huge convert – I’ve found that Yin helps me to maintain a healthy balance in both my yoga practice and in my life. I hope I’ve inspired you to give it a go if you haven’t yet tried it 🙂
“Peace is the result of training your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer