Yin Yoga is an amazing practice, not only from a physical point of view, but also from the mental and emotional ones. What exactly is it about YIN YOGA that we all love so much?
Well first let me paint you a picture of how I like to teach it….
Around 30 minutes before you arrive, I am there placing your mats out, lighting candles and making the Feng shui work in the room. Sometimes I spend SO long making the distance between mats exactly the same (this is a separate issue). I also like to have the room smelling nice, and the music playing by the time you get there. I love it when you walk in and you feel the atmosphere straight away!
You walk in and take your place straight away – usually we all chat a little bit as the group is very informal and we love to chat! DONG – the singing bowl is donged and we commence the class. I like to start with a little meditation or breathing exercise seated. Over the next 75 minutes, I will slowly move you between stretchy postures whilst you switch off and sink a little deeper. Each posture will be held between 2-6 minutes. This is great, as it gives the body time to adjust into the posture. I will try to give you a bit of the therapy information like which areas you’re stretching and which target areas are being worked on.
You’ll visualise colours, scenes, breath and bring your focus to the present moment. In my opinion, it’s almost like a really good rest for the brain whilst the body gets a little attention.
The Yin Yoga practice in my opinion, is such a great therapy for the soul, body and mind. There are however a few things to bear in mind when practicing this style of yoga;
- You’re going to stretch out for many minutes at a time so we have to consider whether the joints in question need that much stretch? For example the forward fold see in the picture, is absolutely wonderful for the hamstrings if they are tight from the gym or running, but if you’re quite stretchy like me this may take you a little bit too far in the front of the hip and could cause a little bit of what we call compression – in the short term (minutes) this is usually fine, but if you don’t have a counter balance practice for the body like the gym or a yang style of yoga for strengthening you may find you’re going too far. Unfortunately there are yogis who are experiencing some of the same hip problems as ballerinas – some leading to arthritis.
- Discs and Lower Backs – This one is difficult for teachers, as some people in the room will really need to stretch out the lower back and some will need to maintain a bit more of a straight position for the discs if they have a history of slipping them. There are always ways to modify, but we shouldn’t rely on a teacher in a group class to know absolutely everything that you’re feeling, so remember to chat to the teacher if you know of an existing problem and know what type of pain you are feeling. More on this below.
- Pain Pain Pain !! Well pain – is there anyone in the world who hasn’t experienced it? It’s either sharp, dull, shooting, tingling, diffuse, non specific – if you agree it’s complicated, then how do the physical therapists cope? Pain is subjective and pain lives in the brain – if a person feels pain, it means there has been a messenger sent from the body part through the brain and the brain has sent a response. We often think that pain means avoid or stop, which is true but what if everything we thought about pain especially chronic pain is slightly misunderstood? It really sort of is and more about this later. Back to the point, if you feel shooting pain/sharp pain/pain that makes you feel anxious then you should avoid the movement and move back toward the neutral again – try it and see if this makes your yin practice feel a bit more tailor made for you . Good pain however, the pain we describe as OOOOO the one where the massage therapist gets right into your knots – this is the type of stretch that we like in yoga – but never forget the above point and don’t go too far.
- Ok so you’ve read this and now you’re completely scared to death to come to a yin class… don’t be – this is all part of the journey to becoming aware that your body is the most unique thing in the whole world. We have tried our best to group everyone into categories but it simply won’t do.. you’ll see.
What can Yin Yoga do for you and how can you make it benefit you!
- The practice is a game of letting go and holding back in perfect measures to achieve that blissful feeling of not practicing with the ego, not seeing it as ‘who can go the deepest’ but seeing it as – what does this amazing divine and beautiful body need right now in this moment.
- I often go to yin and turn it into restorative, where I don’t go towards the edge and I make it more about slowing down my mind, and I don’t say that in a cliche way, I promise! The Yin is simply a great tool to achieve your full potential not only on the mat but beyond. Enjoy it and please do it for you not the other way around.