05 Jan LET IN THE YIN
Find out why letting yin into your practice can be beneficial for your health.
New year, new you. Just a few days ago, billions of people across the world wrote a list, made a promise or set a goal for themselves to achieve in 2016. We all know the usual suspects. Join a gym. Run a half marathon. Get fit. Lose 15kg. While these goals are all usually set with good intentions, many focus on extreme measures to achieve them- a recipe for failure.
We often forget that our body needs a rest, a break, a recovery. We can’t run 10km every single day minus rest without consequences. Some days we need long walks instead of high intensity training. Our bodies need regular rest and recovery to perform optimally the rest of the time. As many yogi’s’ discover, mastering those intense vinyasa poses don’t necessarily make them immune to aching knees, back strains and tight hips. Just like a marathon runner, avid yogi’s can benefit greatly from incorporating more relaxing physical movements into their regimes. Cue Yin.
Yin / Yang is the concept of duality forming a whole. Yin refers to the feminine principle- the passive, receptive, reflective, withdrawn and introspective. Yang refers to the masculine principle- the light, active, outward, moving and extrospective. According to Chinese Yin and Yang theory, all things have a yin and yang aspect. There are certain times when we need to draw on our yang energy and also times when we need to use yin energy- when one of these energy sources is too dominant, physical, mental and spiritual imbalances can occur.
In terms of yoga itself, Yin yoga was developed to penetrate into connective body tissue in order to increase flexibility and facilitate healing, whilst simultaneously invigorating these passages to release energy blockages and increase energy flow. On the other hand, Yang yoga is the more traditional hatha or ashtanga based practice which aids in the development of muscular strength, flexibility and stamina.
During the practice of Yin, poses are held for 2-5 minutes, allowing yogi’s to move towards settling into certain postures and encouraging stillness. Connective tissues are elongated and strengthened and joints are safely stretched. Yin Yoga not only encourages flexibility through the increase in range of joint movement, but also urges stress relief and relaxation. The practice encourages silence, stillness and preservation of energy.
Our lives today are filled with so much activity and stimulation; we often forget that preserving energy can be just as beneficial as exerting it. Yin is an excellent practice to cope with the anxiety and stress of the outside world, as well as helping to improve one’s Yang practice.
Yin is a much more meditative approach to yoga, with a physical focus much deeper than Yang yoga. It is an intimate practice that requires students to be prepared to get intimate with themselves, especially sensations and emotions. Practicing yin can eventually lead yogi’s toward greater self awareness and self-transformation. Given the quiet and meditative nature of the practice, yogi’s often develop their self-enquiry skills as their minds are drawn inwards during practice. Spiritual and mental awareness are just as important as physical aspects of health, but are often neglected due to the materialistic and fast-paced nature of society.
There are no absolute answers on how often to practice yin- we prefer to listen to what our bodies want and act accordingly. Once or twice a week is great to balance the body’s energy and stretch stressed connective tissues.
Looking for a little yin-spiration? Here are a few of our favourite yin poses to sink into after a long day on our feet-
Step one foot forward and lunge deeply into the hips. You might want to roll onto the blade of the front foot and come down onto the forearms if you have the range. This pose works deeply into the hip flexors and the meridians of the spleen and kidney. You may modify this pose with a block or bolster under the arms to lessen the stretch felt in the hips. Alternatively the bolster could be used to support the front leg as it opens out to the side. Hold each side for about five minutes then release all the way down onto the belly to reset for 30 seconds.
Bring the right knee forward behind the right wrist and flex into the foot. Allow the hips to sink open towards the floor. If there is any space between the hips and the floor, use a block or a bolster to allow you to completely switch off the muscles. You may also like to bring the chest to a bolster to help you relax. This pose benefits the kidney and liver meridian lines as we let go of the muscles and settle in to the connective tissue.
From tabletop keep the hips directly over the knees and walk the hands forward bringing the heart towards the earth. You may be able to bring the chin to floor or you can support the body with a bolster or block underneath the chest. Supporting the body will allow the muscles of the upper back and chest to release. This pose works into the meridian lines of the heart.
Make some time in your schedule for a Yin practice the perfect way to balance out the yang in your life! WOY has 3 Yin classes a week and our yoga advisor is always around to answer any questions. See you on the mat !