“You need to experience this to really know what Yin Yoga is all about. After you have experienced it, even just once, you will realize that you have been doing only half of the asana practice.”
― Bernie Clark
I love this photo taken whilst I was teaching the yin class (for my urban retreat day), because everyone looks both focussed and yet relaxed.
I have finally grown to love practicing and teaching Yin yoga, however when I attended my first yin class about 12 years ago, I hated it and vowed never to go back. I found it so boring and I really wasn’t convinced about the safety of the practice or with the effect it might have on my flexible body and joints. I was also completely immersed in teaching Anusara yoga and correct body alignment of the muscles and bones at that time, so was quite closed to other styles of yoga.
Then about 4 years ago, yin started to become more ‘in’, it was becoming cool to be in the yin crowd, so I decided that I would give it another try and stay open to it this time. I attended a class with a very inspiring London teacher and I loved it, more importantly, I now understood it. A year later. I completed a yin teacher training course and have never looked back, I now know that yin can be practiced very safely under the eye of a qualified teacher and with the help of yoga props to support each individual’s body. Then when we are fully able to let go of muscular tension, there is a much deeper release in the underlying tissue.
Don’t get me wrong, stronger yang styles of yoga provide enormous benefits for physical and emotional health, especially for those living a sedentary modern lifestyle, yoga helps remove energy stagnation as it cleanses and strengthens our bodies and our minds as well as lifting our spirit. However, this practice by itself, may not adequately prepare the body for a yin activity such as seated meditation which depends on the flexibility of the underlying connective tissue, therefore yin is the perfect partner to balance a yang yoga practice and also compliments a more active yang lifestyle.
With yin, there is no flow, we settle in to specific poses, but yin still requires skillful sequencing in order to open up the body for release. Yin poses can be held from 2 minutes – 10 minutes, this is where the real work of yin begins. Rather than working our muscles, yin focusses more on releasing the deeper connective tissue and fascia underneath the muscles allowing for a much deeper release. Yin requires you to stay mindful and to inquire, paying attention to whatever is showing up for you both physically, emotionally and mentally. I always encourage my students to explore and to notice every single feeling or sensation, whilst at the same time trying to surrender fully into the pose. I ask “when there is intensity, how does your mind and body deal with it, does it want to pull away, do you feel tense, frustrated, bored or angry, or can you be alone with your breath and mindful openness with the will to commit to right here, right now?”
As yogis, we all know that when we can find freedom in the body, we can also find freedom for our mind. Yin yoga fully facilitates this and in a deeper way than a flow or hatha practice, it can offer expansion, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. I like to think of a yin class a a deep internal cleaning, opening places that may be stuck, closed or stagnant (mind and body).
I now think of yin yoga as the best friend to my yang yoga, it’s mature yoga, it offers me release, expansion and a complete overall feeling of peace.