When I first discovered Yin yoga, I knew it was the real deal. My body resonated with the practice on a deep level with immediacy, and I was aware of a whole new realm opening up to me that would contribute to my life in numerous ways. Those ways weren't clear at that time, but I knew it was profound.
I had been a consistent yoga student for about 12 years prior to Yin, so I was not new to the internal workings of a yoga practice. I always favored slower and more mindful kinds of practices, so Yin seemed somehow familiar, even though it was "new." But even during regular classes that were slower and more intentional with movement, my body was asking for something different. It wanted to spend a LOT more time decompressing and unwinding, not necessarily building muscle, and Yin provided exactly that.
Who knew that a simple forward fold held for several minutes could feel SO good?
In a nutshell, Yin yoga is a series of long passive holds (3-5 min each), mostly seated and reclined, without the muscular engagement you find in other yoga practices. It brilliantly stretches and stresses the fascia to create mobility, flexibility, and quietude. Yin focuses much less on alignment and instead works with your body to discover and support what feels good in the physical form.
What do you do with all that time?
While a few minutes in a passive pose flies by for most, it can feel like an eternity to some, mostly because Yin is a very quiet practice. Crickets chirping quiet. No distractions. No loud music. No extraneous directives. It's just you and your awesome self. And that is exactly why I love it so much, and why it feels completely daunting to others. Yin yoga requires you to be present with Self and for much longer than what you're used to. Five minutes in a pose is a much different timeline than 30 seconds. When teaching Yin, I give minimal directives and allow a whole lot of silence for students to rely on their own body awareness. I provide the framework, length of time, and offer a few suggestions in each pose but not more than that. I redirect students to follow the sensations in their own body and/or their breath when they get distracted. I hold space for students to connect with what is true for them.
Time is the gift with Yin.
Forget about the Doing and Embrace the Being
We are programmed to DO rather than BE. Most of us value ourselves through what we have and do instead of acknowledging who we are as more than enough simply by being ourselves. That doing usually shows up as working too much, creating busy work, or always planning the next thing and projecting into the future to avoid being in the present. Yin challenges that paradigm by inviting us back into Self through long quiet holds, making it more difficult to automatically check out or wait for the next instructor cue. But how? Yin is not an easy gentle practice. Not only are you asking your brain to chill out for long stretches of time, you are also experiencing quite a bit of intense physical sensation during the poses. The poses themselves are uncomplicated but challenging, and I love that dual energy. Unlike many other practices where you're holding poses for a shorter amount of time, Yin requires a commitment to a sensation filled timeline as you continually find more and more allowance with the intensity.
Therefore, the Doing gets replaced with the Being.
Not Self into Self
The physical benefits of Yin are usually what attract people into this practice. Who doesn't want more mobility and flexibility? Who doesn't want to feel more ease in the spine and hips and legs? And it is that ease in the body that allows for ease with Self. Through the long holds, we become aware of how much energy we are holding in our bodies that isn't even ours. Unconsciously, we carry energies for others, and those can show up in the physical body as anxiety, anger, overwhelm, and fatigue. We believe these energies belong to us, but they usually don't.
The deep unwinding of the fascia through Yin helps to release anything Not Self in order to reconnect with Self.
If you're looking for a deeper connection with Self, I encourage you to try Yin.
If you're afraid of a deeper connection with Self, I definitely encourage you to try Yin. ;o)
If you need someone to help you through this process of deep inner connection, I am happy to be your co-pilot. I offer private Yin sessions virtually. Feel free to reach out.