If the title of this blog post just sounded like a tongue twister, that’s okay. I’m very new to yin yoga too, which is why this post comes with a huge disclaimer: I am NOT a yoga teacher or even an advanced yogi. I know very little about this practice beyond my personal experiences, so that is all I will be sharing along with some research I did using much more knowledgeable sources.
Okay. Now that that is out of the way, this post is just going to touch briefly on the practice of yin yoga. It is generally considered that our more energetic yoga practices (power, vinyasa flow, hot etc.) are “yang” practices, so many yogis like to practice yin to complement the effects of the yang styles. So yin is basically a deeply relaxing, but in many ways mentally challenging, form of yoga to practice. It’s also a great style to start with if you are brand new and have never tried yoga before.
It’s not about calorie burning and sweating. You basically hold stretches for anywhere from one to 20 minutes (but most in the classes I have taken have been held from four to seven minutes). By allowing yourself a longer time to stretch, you stretch more than just muscles, but the deeper, connective tissues of the body such as the ligaments and joints of the body. Of course, if you are in a stretch that feels good then the time can fly by and it can be deeply relaxing. But chances are, there will be a way to make the stretch deeper if it begins to feel easy, and if you are in a pose where the part of your body being stretched is tight, it can be very mentally challenging to remain in the pose and not want to come out.
One yoga teacher I had, Ingrid Hauss, described it best when she explained that your body is like a piece of chewing gum: very hard at first, but the more you chew it the softer it gets. That is what happens when you hold stretches for so long – eventually the body part being stretched really starts to loosen. And that is where you want to be for optimal joint and body health.
As I said, I know very little about this on a deeply scientific level, but there is a great site – YinYoga.com, funnily enough – that has lots of information about the practice. And if you are looking to try out yoga for the first time and have some questions, Averie (see picture below!) at Love Veggies and Yoga has a great FAQs post up that will answer some of the most commonly asked questions from newbies. Check her out, she’s a trained yoga teacher (ie: much more qualified than me).
To leave on a positive note (as always!), a few great things about Yin:
1) You are always in the right mood for Yin – if you’re energetic the class will calm you down and if you have low energy the class will balance you out. And you will sleep amazingly well (it’s been known to help insomniacs)!
2) No two classes are the same. Michele, one of my favourite Yin teachers, is well-versed in aromatherapy so brings in oils to waft over us to balance our energy. She also brings in Tibetan singing bowls and plays didgeridoo recordings as part of sound therapy. Julie, another great Yin teacher, reads poetry while we hold stretches. Everyone has a different approach, so try a few and find your favourite teacher, or go to different teachers’ classes throughout the week to keep things varied.
3) You will see changes very quickly. At least I did. When you’re doing that much stretching, if you even go two or three times a week you will feel bendier in no time. And we all know that flexibility helps to prevent injuries and difficulties with movement when we’re older!