Yin yoga is a slow, nourishing and healing form of yoga. It involves Hatha yoga poses (asanas) held for longer periods of time, anywhere from 2 - 20 minutes. Most poses are held on the floor and props can be used for extra support (if required). This longer length of time held in the pose is where the magic happens - it impacts our connective tissues (rather than our muscles as with more active forms of yoga), involving our deep fascia network, joints, ligaments, tendons and even our bones. It is the long, gentle pressure that stimulates strengthening of our connective tissues and also helps remove blockages deep in our connective tissues which then allows Chi / prana / energy to flow freely.
“Our Chi will move to wherever we place our awareness. It is also true that wherever our chi moves it will bring our awareness with it”. - Paul Grilley
By learning to hold poses for longer periods of time, practicing patience, this calms the mind and cultivates an ideal attitude for meditation. This quieter yoga practice can introduce us to balancing our body, heart and mind. In our current Western world we are all often ‘caught up’ in our heads, leading to disconnection from our (true) self and others. Yin yoga and Mindfulness meditation is a wonderful way to help become more grounded, reconnect, heal and relax. It can benefit both our relationship with ourselves and others.
There are 3 Principles for yin practice:
1st - Come into the pose and find your appropriate edge, this can also be called your ‘sweet spot’, where you feel the body being stretched, squeezed or twisted. By moving into a pose slowly with care and breath awareness we can listen to our body and learn to tell the difference between risky pain and discomfort. If you begin to feel overwhelmed or alarmed, or sense sharp, shooting, or stabbing pain, or strong burning or electrical tingling sensations these are all signs that you need to modify or come out of the pose immediately.
Don’t concern yourself with how you look in the pose, it is how you feel in the pose that is important. I find remembering this quote from Bernie Clark really helpful when teaching and practicing -
“We don’t use the body to get into the pose, we use the pose to get into your body”.
2nd - Become still and mentally willing to surrender to the experience. Stillness of the body leads to a quieting of the breath and in turn the mind.
3rd - Choose to stay in the pose for a while, decide on the time held in each pose at the beginning of practice. The only reason to modify your pose is if you can shift a little deeper into the pose with time OR you become aware of risky pain or a sense of overwhelm. We use breath awareness (again) to come out of the pose slowly. Please be aware that immediately following a long yin pose our joints can feel quite fragile and vulnerable, this feeling is brief and should pass after a minute or two.
Interested in a class and experiencing yin yoga yourself? You're welcome to
come along and join me on the mat (class details are on my website).