You only have to look at your local yoga studio schedule to understand that there are so many varied styles of yoga to choose from – power, vinyasa flow, dynamic yoga. One form of yoga that has gained popularity lately is Yin. Yin yoga is the perfect antidote to the (so often, too fast paced) modern life. Yin offers a more meditative approach to yoga, which aims to cultivate awareness of inner silence.Yin yoga poses apply moderate stress to the connective tissues, the tendons, fascia, and ligaments with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility.
We are very much missing a quieter more intimate type of movement to complement the more yang environment. Especially in places like London where there is an immediacy to life and an extreme impatience which yin yoga helps to dispel. I come from North Wales were we naturally move much slower 🙂 ; there is definitely less bustle to get to work. Yang yoga has really opened up the possibilities to find meditation in physical exercise, to give us an insight into the elements of yin – breath, pranayama and meditation. However, the practise of yin requires you to truly let yourself go, to allow the body and mind to slow down in order to deal with the business of day to day living.
I think in our choice of exercise we are always looking for the ‘ultimate way to workout’, the harder you go the better. The sport that offers the most ‘bang for your buck’! This can also be seen in yang like yoga practices such as Power Yoga. Unlike quick regular changes in position, yin poses are held for long durations to help initial deep releases and stretches throughout the joints and muscles. It is also such a meditative style of yoga that can help to ease emotional tension and stress. I believe people really are attracted to not only letting go but most importantly being given permission to let go, so simple, but so powerful. Yin is so attractive to many; a working mum, an athlete, personal trainer, someone with an injury, anyone in a stressful job or really sits in a chair all day. Coming from a more dynamic yoga practise I can see how yin is so surprisingly rewarding to help everything slow down, turn inwards and move a little deeper. While yang-like practises are more superficial, yin offers a much deeper access to the body – soften the muscles closer to the bone.
We are such a fast paced society based on overworking, over-achieving, and too often overwhelmed, which is not a sustainable position to be in, we cannot always operate in flight mode as injury, sickness or mental afflictions can appear as a result. Since starting to teach over the last 10 months I have been quite sick, my immune system has been lower than normal, which has left to inadvertent laps in anxiety. I am now fully aware that this is due to too much yang in my life. There has to be a balance. Anyone can tell you to slow down but yin actually offers a practise which encourages this. You can be on your my mat without goals or worry of achievement, to really listen to what is going on without judgment or endless control.
However with benefits of course come challenges. Yin offers a challenging practise which requires a totally different attitude to self-care. I have found yin incredibly challenging although rewarding to my mental and physical health. It is a relief to ‘rest and digest’, to notice how good it can feel and how necessary it is to feel this different side of ourselves. When the yang discipline of drawing to strength and stability, engaging bandas and using Ujjayi breath is taken away what are we left with? We can be left vulnerable to ourselves, how do we really feel when all of our distractions and physical goals taken away? This intimate practise of yoga requires students to be ready to get intimate with themselves, with feelings, sensations, and emotions, something of which I have noticed can be easy to avoid in a fast paced yoga practise. Yin yoga is often used in programmes to deal with addiction, eating disorders, anxiety and deep pain or trauma. Yin is such a great practise to compliment other yang styles, instead of jumping in and out there is an opportunity to learn to ‘be’ to ‘accept what is’ in that given moment, something that we can all benefit from daily. For me I didn’t know how to be very still, be entirely in my own company with no distractions. There is something so deep about yin that taps into a part of you in a way only unique to yin. And for me a healthy yin practise has poured into a healthier yang practise and a healthier life as whole. And I wish this for everyone.