A Celebration of all things Yin
I love yin yoga. Now. But as someone who has always had a very dynamic yoga practice, yin yoga was initially a bit of a struggle for me.
In fact, I was bored out of my mind, fidgety and frustrated. Why was there not more movement?
Yin Yoga is a slow paced practice, holding shapes with your body from between 1-10 minutes (some crazy kids hold for up to 2o minutes!) Before you start to panic, the shapes we make in yin are not strength-based, but are made up of passive stretches, allowing the body to settle into its own maximum.
It aims for a much deeper level of flexibility in the body – connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, fascia – even eventually the skeletal system.) The practice often targets areas in and around joints – the pelvis and spine receive a lot of love.
Yin and the Nervous System
Yin, and the mindfulness associated with it, also allows the body to activate the parasympathetic state of the nervous system, more commonly known as ‘rest and digest’ mode (or ‘feed and breed’, which is funnier.) It conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, aiding sleep and restoration.
The opposite (the sympathetic) governs our ‘fight or flight’ response. We need this when we need to react to a perceived threat, but too much time spent in this state causes stress and fatigue. And we find ourselves here way too much.
Luckily, I soon realised how much my body (and mind!) needed to balance out my active lifestyle. At certain times of the year, I surf coach twice a day, go for my own surf, teach yoga classes and try and fit in a run. This obviously can be pretty tiring, and at times my body has very close to fatigue and burnout. Not good.
So I do not always need to add a strong, dynamic yoga practice – I actually need to even out all this activity (yang) with some calm (yin.)
And it really works. Since practicing yin, I have noticed much more flexibility and ease in my body, especially noticeable around my hips and lower back. Which has moved across to my yang practice too.
It’s all about balance, folks.
I love yin so much that I have started teaching a class completely devoted to it. So for anyone who is curious, come along! (see here for more details)
The benefits of Yin Yoga
- Increases mobility in the body, especially around joints
- Brings down stress and anxiety levels
- Better lubrication and protection of joints
- Releases fascia
- Relaxing and calming – helps me to sleep! (I do a lot of my yin practice in bed)
- Improves dynamic yoga for a more rounded and complete practice
- Better ability to sit for meditation
My favourite book about yin is: