It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I taught my very first Yin yoga class, having just completed my yin training the month before – the experience took me to Cloud 10, which is floating as high as you ‘legally’ can.
I’d like to say I haven’t come back down since, but hey, life!
Still every time I teach I get a taste of that awesome Cloud 10 experience and I’ve grown so much – I now have 67 classes under my belt, including teaching 14 last month, and I’ve also done a Level 2 training with a master yin yoga teacher.
Hey I’m a bona-fide yin teacher now and it’s become my favourite style of yoga to teach.
I’m so grateful, which is the key as I wrote – Without gratitude you get the joy and exhilaration of Cloud Nine but it doesn’t last. It’s fleeting and you find yourself floating back down, like a balloon slowly farting out its air.
Anyway, I thought it was about time I posted some FAQ’s, in case you’re still not sure whether yin yoga is for you. Believe me, it’s for everyone.
So what is yin yoga?
Yin yoga is a restorative form of yoga that utilizes props (blocks, bolsters, straps, blankets) to enable you to hold postures for a longer period of time, allowing for deeper opening in the body and targeting the fascia, connective tissues and joints.
It has meditative quality as you give up resistance in your body and mind simultaneously, and can be quite healing over time.
What is fascia?
I like to describe fascia and other connective tissues as being like bubble wrap that wraps around your body, protecting and enveloping organs, muscles and bones. You could also think of it as webbing in your body.
Fascia is very fluid – there are fibrous tissues that are elastic and they are hydrated by facial fluid – you may have heard of synovial fluid that lubricates the hip joints. When fascia dries out we feel stiff and stuck and may lose joint mobility and support. Think of all the bubbles in the wrap being popped so that it loses its protective quality. only with fascia the bubbles are filled with fluid.
Why is it called yin yoga?
Traditional yoga actually incorporates 8 limbs that include moral and ethical codes and practices, breathing practices (pranayama), and meditation practices as well as what many people popularly think of as yoga – asana practice.
Most asana practice, like most exercise, is yang-based, or at least skewed towards yang postures. So whether the tradition is Hatha, Iyengar, Bikram (hot) or Ashtanga, the focus is on dynamic movement of the muscles to enhance overall strength and flexibility. Generally certain postures, particularly on the floor, will call for a more yin approach.
Yin yoga flips the dynamic focus, switching off the muscles, which relax with time, in order to go deeper, with fewer, long-held and supported postures.
Can you explain a bit more about the difference between yin and yang?
The misconception a lot of people have is that yin and yang are opposites – they think in black and white terms. Yin and yang compliment each other and are relative to each other. So we know what fast feels like because we’ve experienced slow, what hot is because we’ve been cold. Our experiences will all differ so it’s subjective.
Night compliments day – neither yin or yang are good or bad. However regular readers will know how convinced I am that we need more yin in our fast, busy and competitive world – we need a reYINvention.
So in terms of yin yoga, it is slower and deeper, relative to yin yoga and in a way that compliments more dynamic practice.
What if I’m not flexible?
First of all, flexibility is relative, so don’t talk yourself out of yoga in general or yin yoga in particular.
Yin yoga is actually good even with limited flexibility because you can always use props to support you – for example if your spine is very rounded you can add an extra bolster or place a block on top in a seated forward fold position in order to get just a little deeper.
It takes time and that’s OK. Remember its yoga practice not yoga perfect.
I have a monkey mind, I couldn’t stay still for so long?
Then you need yin yoga!
Yin yoga is good for those who can’t still their mind to meditate (we never actually stop thinking we just learn to let thoughts float through). With the focus on the physical opening in your body, you can focus your monkey mind on your gripping hip or tight shoulder and take your breath to that point to help in the releasing process. You might release a negative thought pattern at the same time.
Unlike sitting still in meditation, the postures give you something to focus on, so yin yoga is great preparation for deepening into meditation.
It still sounds slow, how can you tell you are getting ‘results’?
I’m not going to lie, during a yin yoga class you may feel stiffer (I tell students you may feel 100 years old). But that’s the release of the stuck fascia, trapped energy, negative emotions, which you feel in the space between postures.
Energy becomes unstuck and starts to flow (and believe me your whole body wants to flow). Some postures target to open specific chakras or meridian energy lines.
Over time you’ll find yourself more flexible during both exercise and regular activity – you may feel lighter, both physically and mentally, as you give up long-held resistance.
I’m pretty convinced you’ll feel good. I’ve had students come out of class saying they’re ‘drunk on yoga’ if that’s any clue!