Last month I seized an amazing opportunity to deepen my yoga education and practice. Josh Summers lead an amazing 30 hr. intensive Yin Yoga Teacher Training at Fish Tree Yoga.
According to Bernie Clark, “Yin Yoga is not meant to be comfortable; it will take you well outside your comfort zone. Much of the benefit of the practice will come from staying in this zone of discomfort, despite the mind’s urgent pleas to leave. This, too, is part of the practice.”
In a nutshell, our main focus in Yin Yoga is to relax the muscles and target the deep connective tissue of the body. Over time these areas begin to atrophy, especially without a mild, healthy ‘stress’ placed upon them. Without getting into an exhaustive list of what was covered during teacher training, I wanted to draw on my personal experience with Yin Yoga and the impact it’s had on my practice:
Balance to a Yang Lifestyle: You might have already guessed, but I’m a stay-at-home mother, I work part time from home, and I’m a yoga instructor by night. Some days, I need a practice that balances my active lifestyle (a yang quality), requires little energy, and doesn’t induce heat. Almost all Yin postures are done on the floor.
Deep Rest: I found that during my four day intensive, I received some of the best rest in a long time. I was in bed by 10 pm fully refreshed by 6 am the next morning. Just examine some of the qualities of Yin and it’s not surprising how it reinforces deep rest – acceptance, contentment, stillness, slow, quiet, receptive. By finding stillness in the Yin posture, I was in a better place to receive the rest I truly needed.
Prepares one for Meditation: I believe one of the reasons I struggled with meditation is I couldn’t sit for extended periods of time. I have very tight quads and found that Yin poses such as Dragon and Saddle, helped alleviate some of that tension. Given the longer duration of the holds, that’s a perfect time to cultivate a meditation practice, too.
Mindfulness: I found myself making better choices, whether it was nourishing myself with wholesome food, choosing rest over work, or being mindful of my response to daily situations. I became more aware of what I was doing. You can learn a lot about yourself by being in Seal pose for 2 minutes. When dull, achy sensations arise, do you do everything you can to distract yourself from the pose or can you embrace the sensations knowing ‘this too shall pass.’ According to Bernie Clark, “Yin Yoga is not meant to be comfortable; it will take you well outside your comfort zone. Much of the benefit of the practice will come from staying in this zone of discomfort, despite the mind’s urgent pleas to leave. This, too, is part of the practice.”
Freedom: What I mean here is functional alignment vs. aesthetic alignment. NOT to say alignment does not matter in Yin Yoga, but the bottom line is – every body and everyone’s bone composition is different. What may work for me and my range of motion, in any given pose, may not work for you or vice versa. That’s not anything to be ashamed of but to be honored. For example, in Seal pose, I can’t feel the full sensation of the backbend if I don’t allow my shoulders to shrug slightly. Yes, it doesn’t look Yoga Journal worthy, I might even get some looks if this was in a more Yang class; but in Yin my focus is shifted to ‘playing my edge.’ What this means is that the poses themselves may not look so pretty or appear ‘safe.’ Again, the goal is to access the deep connective tissue by relaxing the surrounding muscles, in a way that suits your range of motion. What freedom!
Whole. Healthy. Peace.