I have, honestly, been trying to write this blog for a while now. But I’ve always gotten tongue-tied and lost my train of thought, trying to define yin yoga in a user friendly way for a reader to digest. It’s much easier to experience yin yoga in a class to understand something of what it offers.
The first yin yoga class I attended was not a great introduction for me. I was running late, had no change to pay for the class, didn’t know where to park and was attending a studio I’d never been to before. When I finally got into the studio space, 2 other people were there to take the Sunday morning class, and the teacher knew them both (well she hugged them.) The 90-minute class was a blur of staying in uncomfortable poses while the teacher read poetry to us.
Despite a shaky start, I knew that yin yoga was something a little bit different than the Ashtanga I was used to practicing. So I found an amazing teacher and started studying with her. Over the course of several years I’ve gained over 300 hours of studying Yin Yoga and learned that there is still so much to learn.
Yin is a slow practice based on the teachings of Paul and Suzee Grilley. It works on the fascia, the connective tissue or the bits in between. Yin yoga is a great accompaniment to any more yang forms of exercise – vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga, gym workouts, running or weight training. All of these activities work the muscles, which enjoy a lot of pressure over a short period of time. The tissues we work with in yin yoga are different, they are less pliable and require a small amount of pressure, applied over a longer period of time.
This is where the magic happens. As we sit (or lay) in a yin yoga pose, we have no where left to go. The body finds a sense of release and the mind comes to a point of stillness and calm. Our breathing steadies and the essence of mindfulness becomes apparent. We are embracing the discomfort, without experiencing pain, and with the full choice that we can move at any time into a place of more ease.
The key here is that we are almost training our minds to breathe and find space in uncomfortable situations. By holding our yin poses for a length of time, not only do we work on the connective tissues or the body, we are also releasing something deep within the mind. When we find ourselves in stressful situations off the mat there is an inner strength we can draw on which we have nurtured during our yin yoga practice.
Yin yoga offers many benefits including improved mobility, an opportunity to be mindful in the present moment and the feeling of relaxation in the body and the mind. This makes yin yoga a great practice before bed, as it can help to ease tension built up during the day encouraging a more restful sleep. If you want to multiply the benefits, why not try yin yoga at the wall? I’ve create this 15-minute Yin Yoga at the Wall class especially to help as a wind down before bed.
I’m not sure if any of this has helped to define yin yoga, but it offers some of the explanations I share with my students who are new to yin. I love sharing this practice with people because I know first hand how transformative it can be and how empowering. Sometimes I read poetry and sometimes I hug people, but I go out of my way to ensure that everyone feels welcome and safe, even if they’ve been running late to get to class and can’t stay in the poses for the full time!
If you’d like to learn more about Yin Yoga then join my Ten to Zen – Yin Edition course which begins on 13 February 2023. Over the course of 10-days we’ll explore some short (10-minute) yin practices designed to ease your emotions, soothe the soul, alleviate anxiety and boost your wellbeing. Do you want to join (y)in?