by Jenn Bodnar | July 16, 2014 8:33 am
“The Quieter you become, the more you can hear. ” ~ Ram Dass
Up until a few years ago I didn’t even know what Yin Yoga was. Being an active, recovering type a personality I guessed Yin was more for beginners. I enjoyed my intense workouts and hot power yoga classes, sweating it out and feeling challenged and empowered beyond belief. Still do, make no mistake. I noticed the Yin classes at LifePower Yoga where I practice were always packed! I finally decided to take my first Yin yoga class one Sunday morning after a long bike ride. The room was full of people of all ages and backgrounds. I chose a spot way back in the corner in case I needed to make a fast break.
The instructor was lovely, pleasant and knowledgeable. After a short meditation, she gently maneuvered us into our first pose: a seated position with one leg straight out in front of us and one bent backwards with our heel towards our bottom. “Half Saddle. ” I thought, “okay, I feel it, it’s cool. ” She asked us to fold forward still I thought “I can go with this even though my legs are definitely feeling the 40 bike miles in full effect. ” Then she said “and just stay here and breathe softly from the belly … we will be here for about 5 minutes. ”
WHAT???? I popped my head up in disbelief, but alas everyone was folding and mellow and I discovered that she was totally and completely serious. I hovered back down forward with my muscles screaming at me and prepared for what was going to be an amazing learning process.
Welcome to Yin Yoga ….as in the other side of Yang. It has only been around since the 1970’s, created by martial artist Paulie Zink, who is said to have held poses for up to 30 minutes. He became extremely flexible and it caught on quickly, becoming more mainstream.
Perhaps you are familiar with the Yin Yang Symbol. It’s the circle with two mirroring tear drop shapes each with a dot in the middle: completely balanced opposites. Yang means masculinity, heat and light. Yin, on the other hand, is feminine, cool, dark and very passive. The sun is considered Yang, the moon Yin. The truth is we all have a lot of Yang in our lives: fast paced, moving energy and not a lot of time for reflection, stillness and presence.
1. Yin Yoga physically provides the body with a deep release. Any amount of stretching is definitely a step in the right direction and will inevitably reduce chance of injury, improve flexibility and increase range of motion if practiced on a regular basis. Holding stretches for 3-5 minutes releases fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds muscles. A yin yoga practice will not only relax muscles, but can go much further toward the important joints in the hips and back increasing circulation. The more circulation you have, the more fluid the joints and the younger and stronger the body will feel.
2. Yin Yoga will create a sense of Inner Peace. The breathing practice and stillness helps to lower stress cortisol levels and calms the mind. This doesn’t mean that your mind will not fight back with some resistance. As another one of my yin teachers said ” yin yoga is simple, but it doesn’t means it’s easy. ” You will experience some intense sensation in a meditative environment. It’s a very introspective practice thats creates awareness of inner silence and wakes up interconnection. This can be a long journey, but once it’s over, there is an awakening or enlightening that brings a strong sense of self when observed this way with patience and subtle persistence.
3. Yin Yoga creates better over all well being. A Yin practice can also improve the flow of qi (pronounced chee) or energy flow. When energy flows through the different channels the body, or meridians, improved organ health, immunity and emotional balance can be achieved. It’s the same kind of effect one might experience from acupuncture or a deep tissue massage. With it’s properties of improving stamina and slowing signs of aging, a regular Yin practice can make you feel better, stonger and younger overall.
Photo – shutterstock.com
Who can benefit from Yin Yoga? Athletes – young and seasoned, the elderly, office workers, any highly stressed person, addicts, persons with eating disorders or dealing with pain/trauma recovery. Basically, everyone can grow and learn something about their bodies and themselves through a Yin Yoga practice. Aim for about once a week. It’s best when practiced to compliment Yang activity. There’s always a different take away from every class. Sometimes the body seems cooperative, others it fights with a vengeance but in every class there is an opportunity to mentally and physically grow through silence with sensation.
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