What is Yin Yoga and my personal reflections of it.
Yin Yoga is a type a yoga that I stumbled upon I my mid 50’s. I have always been a yang yoga, power yoga type girl and decided to have a look around and see if there was anything I could do to enhance my flexibility.
Yin is the completely opposite of Power yoga, the muscles are relaxed through out and the poses are held in stillness for 3-8 minutes. It is basically a floor based sequence where you come into your pose to appropriate depth, resolve to remain still and hold the pose for a length of time.
It is impossible to talk about Yin without talking about Yang. Yang is about changing the world and Yin accepts the world as it is. Neither is right or wrong and sometimes it is more appropriate and even necessary to change the world and sometimes its is best to just allow things to unfold. Part of the yin practice is learning this yielding. Yin yoga as the name suggest is the perfect accompaniment and supplement for your mostly yang lifestyles, and even our yang Yoga. They balance each other. The meridians of our bodies can be compared to irrigation channels. The Yin yoga dredge the canal of accumulated debris and open the channels and the yang yoga stimulate the flow of fluid through them. Yin and Yang are necessary aspects of a healthy life.
Yin Yoga was not meant to be comfortable, intact it can take you well out of your comfort zone. But not through any pain. Your body is unique and your yoga is only yours. Part of this Yoga is look with curiosity and develop your wisdom. the body is always talking to us, if we listen. In our physical Yin Practice we are encourage to go to our edge and hold the posture in stillness. But my question is where is the edge and how do we recognise it.
Well we need to listen, listen to the tweaks, littles to the grumbles, these signs of discomfort are important. Ignore them at our peril. We need to challenge our bodies to stay strong. If we fear our edge there is a danger or not going far enough and if we go too far, then there is the possibility of injury. We need to look at our first edge and see how it feels and gently back off a little, so its still in sight, just a small distance away, then when the body trusts us a little it will open and the edge recedes inviting to you to follow and, soon you are beyond your original pointer of an edge but without ever reaching it and without pushing through it.. but with gentle persistence you have approached, observed, then with slight withdrawal and patience you have gone further than perhaps you ever dared imagine. The timing of this is almost irrelevant but just paying attention to sensation of how you feel and not by how you look, you adapt, you adjust, you advance and you retreat.
Yin Yoga focuses on Connective tissue. Movements that create a gentle traction of the connective tissue are Yin where as a more yang movement would be with the alternative contracting and relaxing of the muscles. Both Yin and Yang exercises are necessary and they supplement each other.
Yin Yoga is a floor based practice where the postures are held passively for 3-8 minutes. It is a quiet contemplative practice where the personality of the teacher can either take you on a journey through the holding of the pose and also can let you be more internal engaging with your breath your thoughts, your body, your emotions. And I think the best classes I have been to have been mix of this.
There is no patent on the name YIN yoga and so it does vary from teacher to teacher. But the general advice is to breathe normally. Observing it but not try and change it. After holding the posture in stillness from between 3-8 mins it is a good idea to relax on your back and feel the rebound. Holding the postures for this length of time can temporarily block the chi and blood from flowing in some areas and redirect towards other area. The rebound is what we feel after we release and melt into our mats, and sometimes we can literally feel the energy diluting, dissipating & spreading across our bodies. Trying to be aware of this is an important part of this yoga.
Oh before I go on to explain more, I would just like to say that Yin Yoga should not be confused with Restoravtive Yoga. Restorative and Yin have different intentions. Resotrative is completely supported with no effort and it is a healing of the nervous system. Restorative is complete rest and there is no directive suggestions. where as Yin is active in intention, mind and body with enquiry and observation. Yin yoga is about inquiry into your breath, your thoughts and your energy system. finding your stretch, melting the tension away and marinading into the posture. Yin is about personal experience and exploration, with out attachment to outcome. label your emotions, and wishing them on their way. No judgement, no blame or comparison. Comparison is the thief of joy.
So over to the more complicated bit about Yin Yoga, which will take me 3 more life times to learn completely. There are 3 Pillars to Yin Yoga. TCM, Meditation & Anatomical Comparison.
4 pillars to TCM are
- our body is intergrated
- we are connected to nature
- we were born with a self healing system within us
- Prevention is the best cure.
So within our Yin we bring all these 4 pillars of TCM into play. Our heart, mind and body are not separate things and when we stimulate one the other react by clearing the blockages in our bodies, thoughts and meridians by stretching out our connective tissues we are realeasing the debris that is stuck within us, allowing the chi to flow freely, enabling us to self heal, recuperate and recharge. We are also unblocking barriers as we breathe. The meridians are matrix of energetic path, these meridians were not created equally and some have more importance that others. Each of the 10 most important organs are associated with a meridian and they may be either yin or yang depending on the organ through which the chi flows. There are twelve main meridians and they each connect with another meridian creating a Yin/Yang pair. In Yin Yoga we are most aware of the Yin Meridians and how we can use poses to stimulate them. Some would say that Yin Yoga is like Acupuncture without needles. the science behind this is that the meridian lines flow along the surface of the body and deep inside as well. So the yoga helps with the interior ones and along the exterior points there are special locations know as acupuncture points where stimulation will increase or enhance the flow through the meridians. there are only 2 ways to stimulate these points and that is acupressure and acupuncture. Obviously as we know the acupuncture is done through needles, but the acupressure can be done through specific massage like Bowen for example and also through our Yin Yoga. Basically wherever you feel the stress in a yoga pose that is the meridian line that you are stimulating and therefore aiding. If you are feeling it, you are doing it.
This brings me to the Meditation point. As we hold our postures in stillness we are reminded to look at our breath, to acknowledge our thoughts and send them on their way, each Yin class gives you a feeling of being in a meditative state, intact Yin Yoga does prepare you for sitting in meditation without struggle or pain, just with gentle alignment we will be able to sit and focus on your internal being and just let our bodies support us within this. The slow ocean breathes that we find in holding Yin Yoga reduce stress and activate your rest and digest system, improves your heart and lung function, lowers blood pressure and leads to a healthy and happier life the final pillar means that in Yin Yoga we acknowledge that everyone is different, every body has different shapes and sizes to it and that comparison is the thief of joy. So some body shapes will never stretch into others and that is why as a Yin teacher I believe it is my job and responsibility to encourage every student to find their shape of that moment without comparison or judgement. Remembering there is a fine balance between too little and too much. We touch what is happening in our body in our heart and in our mind. we don’t have to go anywhere, right here, right now, this is life.