There’s hot(yang) and cold(yin), light(yang) and dark(yin), up and down, life and death. You can even describe a person as being more yin or more yang in their nature. We can also describe how we exercise our bodies as being in either a yin way or a yang way. A ‘typical’ yoga practice in the western world is generally a yang practice. We are engaging muscles, building strength, and often moving quite fluidly in and out of poses. So, what is the opposite of this? How do we balance out all this yang energy? Well, that’s where Yin Yoga comes in. I was introduced to this style of yoga a few years ago, while living in a yoga retreat in Ireland. I came across a book demonstrating different yin poses, and I fell in love with the long holds in these simple yet challenging postures. I forgot about yin when I came to do my yoga teacher training a few years later, and my practice became completely focused on a very yang style called Ashtanga Yoga. I love this athletic and dynamic practice, yet I found last year that I was feeling somewhat off balance within my body and within my mind. So I introduced yin back into my life – and the results were immediately amazing. I have just completed a 50-hour Yin Yoga teacher training in Vancouver with renowned yin teacher, author and founder of yinyoga.com, Bernie Clark. In short, the course blew my mind. I was introduced to a whole new way of viewing the body, and it was really embedded in me just how different all our bodies are. So, what is Yin Yoga then? Well, first of all I will define what it isn’t. Yin is not a restorative yoga practice. Bernie says the practice is for people who already have reasonably healthy bodies, and who are looking for optimum health. However, in saying this, there are always alternative poses for those who do have injuries or imbalances. And if available, props such as blankets, bolsters and blocks can really help you get into, and stay in a pose. It’s also important to note that you don’t have to be flexible to do the practice, flexibility is one of the benefits of Yin. In a yin practice, we work mainly with poses that affect the lower part of our body. Instead of strengthening and activating our muscles, we are working on our joints and connective tissues. Instead of flowing in and out of poses, holding each pose for just a few breaths, we are moving extremely slowly and holding poses for several minutes at a time. We are often told that adding stress to our joints is bad, but the old saying goes “use it or lose it”. If we never go to our full range of motion, if we never apply a little stress to these areas, we will lose the ability to use them fully. Stress, followed by rest, is an important formula for our daily lives. We stress our muscles in the gym and then we allow them to rest. Same with our joints, we apply stress in a safe and controlled ‘yin’ way, and then we allow them to rest. Healthy joints lead to a healthy body and a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. The great thing about yin yoga is that as well as keeping our joints healthy and happy, it also works with Traditional Chinese Medicine meridian lines, which contribute to keeping our organs healthy and happy as well! It is a great compliment to our yang lifestyles – but in no way should it replace our yang yoga or yang exercise, as we need to have that balance of yin and yang in life. Just like we can be too yang, we can also be too yin!
For more information visit www.yinyoga.com, or check out a class for yourself! I teach at Raw Yoga three times a week, and provide 8 week courses during school term time at Selwyn Comed
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