For the past several years, I have been developing my yoga practice. More recently, I qualified as a yoga teacher, and this experience has only furthered my love for the practice of Yin Yoga.
Traditionally yoga was designed as a complete healing system for the mind body and spirit. Whilst Hatha Yoga has it all, there are many methods that have exploded in modern times to suit the needs of Western society and to encourage people to get on the mat. You could ask what is the meaning of the term ‘yoga’ nowadays, because we hear about new trends all the time. To me, it makes sense to understand what the purpose of your practice is and where it actually originates from.
My Personal Experience with Yin Yoga
My current practice, is Yin Yoga. Coming from the lineage of the traditional Tantric Hatha and Kriya Yoga, I thought I wouldn’t benefit more from the modern yoga practices. Like I said, Hatha Yoga has it all and if you practice daily it’s good to stick to one method. It’s a complete practice and since I’ve learnt to design a class, I have no reason to try anything new. But being an open-minded person, I like to explore, learn and evolve my practice both as a student and as a teacher of yoga.
The first time I tried Yin Yoga, it was unexpectedly different to what I assumed it would be and I actually found it very unpleasant and out of my comfort zone. But that night, I slept like a baby and was feeling super energised the next day. I always assumed Yin Yoga would be simply a boring restorative class and I’d need a dynamic activity to attract me. How wrong I was! After trying Yin Yoga for the first time about four years ago, I knew it was a totally different approach and started digging further.
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin Yoga finds its roots in the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism. It is a belief system based on two co-existing energies: the energy of Yin and Yang; understanding Yin as about being static, learning to receive, and basically being rather than the doing. From the physical point of view, Yin Yoga is supposed to work on the Yin body tissues, which are the hard tissues, such as fascia and ligaments. These take longer to access and stimulate and cannot be accessed through traditional yoga or any general physical activities.
This is why Yin Yoga has been developed and has become more popular of late. In the past few years, scientists and students from the UCAL- Paul Zinc, Paul Grilly, Sarah Powells and Bernie Clark - began using using traditional asanas as a basis to access the Yin body tissues. Whilst there are methods to change the shape of your fascia today, such as fascia massages, these are quite painful as you’re working on very deep tissues and trying to change them in a short space of time. However, if you have tools and maps to access your inner landscape in a safe way - such as yin yoga - why not do it yourself? That’s why Yin Yoga is a phenomenal addition to your main yoga practice, it’s essentially your own regular masseuse!
A Guide to Yin Yoga
Going to a new yoga class can be intimidating. I recommend if you’re unsure that this practice is for you, try following a class online; YouTube often has lots of free tutorials. But, to give you an overview, Yin Yoga essentially requires you to drop into a pose and hold it for at least three minutes to access those Yin tissues. You then take one minute for a rebound, which is a moment for reflection - relax into corpse pose and experience the effects of the previous pose, simply let the gravity work its magic and observe it take place.
Every single pose has 4 stages, as follows:
- Create a shape with your body
- Find stillness
- Meditate on the target areas while holding the pose for longer
- Carefully and safely release.
Why Yin Yoga is Suitable for Everyone and Anyone - Including Yoga Beginners
What I love the most about Yin Yoga? Let me quote my teacher “Yin Yoga is the Medicine for the modern world; Slow down, Tune in, Let go and Wake up.”
Recently, I’ve met many people who tell me they lost interest in their yoga practice or they gave up after their first class, but they stick to Yin Yoga. It makes me think that what’s so appealing about Yin Yoga is that this method is so easily accessible. You don’t have to be physically ready to achieve anything and while traditional yoga is not about the achievement but about the process, many people have a barrier to trying or continuing because they’re scared to fail.
Yin Yoga allows you to just drop into the posture, no matter where you are. It allows you to feel safe and ready to practice, and take responsibility for your own body because essentially, it’s easy.
For people who have a regular workout and need to balance this out with a grounding force - Yin is the way to go. For those who are lacking self-love, Yin offers a time they can fully dedicate to themselves, for those whose minds are always striving for more adrenaline based Yang activities - Yin Yoga is the happy remedy. And finally for those days when you’re physically exhausted and all you need is a lie in, if you take yourself one step further and drop into a Yin pose - it would feel super nourishing.
Words by Natalia Zawada, STARSEEDS Co-Founder, Designer and Yoga Teacher