What is Yin Yoga?
If you have followed my journey over the last few months, you will probably already know that I am totally in love with a ‘new’ style of yoga – YIN. By new, I mean that I didn’t come to experience the practice properly until earlier this year. In fact, I actually signed up to do a teacher training in Yin before really practicing myself but it turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts and I am now possibly yin’s number one fan. But most of you are probably wondering what on earth ‘Yin’ is and what all the fuss is about. So I thought I would break it down a little to hopefully answer some questions and get you excited to try it too!
Rooted in Chinese medicine theory, the focus of yin yoga is the chi and the meridian systems in the body. Sound funky? Well think of it like this…
The meridians are energy channels in the body, transporting chi. Blckages in the channels can cause an imbalance of energy supply to certain areas of the body. This can be a result of stress, trauma, injury, diet etc and can impact the way we think and feel. Yin and yang are two opposing energies that we want to harmonise in order to help our bodies stay in the best condition.
You’re probably familiar of the terms yin and yang. These two terms are relative, and so only make real sense in the context of each other. So think of your Vinyasa yoga practice, or Ashtanga, power yoga, hot yoga, or pretty much any other yoga and label that yang. The energy you are working with is masculine energy and you are working to stretch and strengthen the muscle tissues in your body. By contrast, in yin yoga, we are working with the deeper connective tissues and feminine energy. Think of it as yoga for the joints. In a good way!
The key thing with yin is to really get into FEELING a pose. By this, I mean letting go of the idea of how a pose should look and in stead working with how it FEELS. It sounds simple, but often we are really attached to the aesthetic of a pose and it can be hard to relax that concept!
So a word of warning here: This is NOT restorative yoga! These two styles are easily confused but have BIG differences. The good news is that generally speaking, Yin classes mainly focus on seated poses (hurray!). The bad news is that gives a false sense of security and in fact the practice is really not comfortable at all. In fact, in Yin you are looking to recognise discomfort as a good thing (not to be confused with pain!) in order to go deep and access the target area tissues.
Yin yoga is a preparation practice for meditation because we start to develop a heightened sense of concentration on the sensations that we experience. I practice and teach a style of yin that includes ‘rebounds’, heavenly little mini-savasanas in between poses to help to tune in fully. For me, that is what yin is all about – the rebound – and it can lead to very powerful mediation by allowing us to enter a focused state that is rare to cultivate in a busy life!
Want to give it a try?
A few tips:
You want the body to be cool in your practice in order to hit the right tissues. If your muscles are warm, they will stretch first and limit the effectiveness of the practice. For that reason, it is best to practice yin BEFORE yang.
Try to practice once or twice under the guidance of a teacher first to help you understand about 'the edge' - the level of discomfort to work with and the way to adjust the poses to suit your body.
I will be teaching a yin class in London at Heart Core in Notting Hill on Thursday mornings at 9.15am. The studio is so beautiful and I couldn’t think of a better setting for this beautiful practice.
On top of that, I am teaching a Yin class NEXT SATURDAY at Stretch, Broadway Market followed by delicious cake by The Hardihood. If you are looking for a special way to start your weekend, you can bet that this is it. Not only will you leave feeling totally chilled, but you’ll be able to enjoy some of the most delicious raw cakes I’ve ever tasted, all in the beautiful new studio at Stretch. Tickets are limited so be sure to book soon!
Finally, if you find yourself hooked and want to dive a little deeper, I am teaching another retreat in France where we have a daily yin practice which allows us to really delve deep into the healing nature of the practice. The last retreat was life changing, for myself as a teacher as well as each of the guests and with Chaya Retreats leading the way and dazzling us with their kitchen prowess, you can be sure to have a magical experience.
Give this video a try - and keep an eye out for a 30 minute yin yoga video coming to my YouTube next week!