I will be offering a Yin Yoga class in Oscailt in August. For those of you who are interested in exploring this practice I thought I would share my experience of Yin Yoga so far. I recently took a Yin Yoga teacher training course with the fantastic Josh Summers. I have always had an interest in Yin and dabbled in it from time to time but in truth I find it really difficult.
Yin Yoga, often described as 'the Quiet Practice', involves a very simple sequence of poses, which can vary from practice to practice. Each pose in held for a number or minutes anything from 2 to 20. The process is simple. You make a shape with your body, find your edge and relax into the posture. The muscles are passive. The breath is natural. Time and gravity work to release and stretch the connective tissue in the body. It differs from Restorative Yoga. Restorative Yoga focuses on healing and involves supporting the body to minimise sensation. Yin Yoga creates a mild sensation the body and the aim is to maintain that level of sensation. Its roots lie in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Mindfulness Meditation. It is designed to be a complementary practice to more Yang styles of yoga or an antidote to an active or stressful lifestyle. It stimulates energy meridians in the body and promotes wellbeing. The positive effect on my body was apparent right away. One the first day of the training I was a bit achy as I sat on the floor in a seated meditation. And I am used to sitting on the floor! By the second day, I noticed a must greater sense of ease as I sat. Whatever muscular tension I was gripping on to seemed to have melted away.
Although the poses are simple, they are not necessarily easy. As a more yang style practitioner I am constantly engaging muscular energy to protect my body and find strength when I need it. It seems counter-intuitive to disengage and just melt into the pose. But you just need to trust in the practice and let go rather than muscle in. And it works! I have to keep checking in in every pose to ensure that I am not gripping. This is an excellent exercise in staying present in itself. Through my now daily practice I find my muscles are more supple, my joints are more mobile, I have increased my flexibility and improved the flow of energy around my body. In short, I just feel better!
For me the greatest challenge is the stillness and this is why is have struggled to maintain a regular practice until now. For the most part I am a vinyasa practitioner. Deep breathing and movement is the essence of my practice. I use flowing yoga as a moving meditation. Yin forces you to stop. There is no flow. There is no ujjayi breath. It's just you, the mat and a static pose. The stillness highlights just how busy my mind can be. It has introduced a whole new challenge of being present and aware without trying to control the situation. It has changed my whole approach to meditation. I was constantly trying to control my thoughts and slow my mind by using my breath as an anchor. Now I am just observing whatever comes up naturally and it is very interesting indeed.
Give Yin Yoga a try. If you are an active person you will probably hate it the first time you try it. You will want to fidget. You will want to find anything else to think about rather than what you are doing in that moment. You will probably feel like it isn't doing much for your body. But don't give up. You don't have to give up your sweaty yoga practice, your crossfit and your running. Incorporating Yin Yoga into your routine is the best way to find balance. The profundity of the practice on both a physical and mental level lies in its simplicity. The best ideas are always the simple ones!