Last week, teaching a retreat on a mountainside, too steep for the hardiest of mountain goats, I rediscovered my love of Yin Yoga. My lovely yoga students (albeit a captive audience given the location ;-), also fell in love with this soothing style of yoga.
Wrapped up like burritos in soft woolen blankets, incense burning, and with the sun setting, we leisurely created shapes (asanas) with our bodies, held for 5 minutes at a time. Bliss!
But what's the difference between yin and yang? And why do we need both?
Yin and yang - what's the difference?
Yin yoga is the complete opposite of a Yang practice. A Yang practice refers to a heating, and active style of yoga, or even activities outside of the yoga studio such as stressful jobs, and high energy sports such as running and boxing. Yang activities channel the body's sympathetic nervous system, also known as "fight or flight", which prepares our bodies for intense physical (or indeed emotional) activities. It can be pretty useful and without it, we might feel unable to make decisions or lacking in passion. But too much can leave us feeling exhausted and stressed.
Yin yoga is a much slower, often stationary practice, associated with the cooling and nurturing energies. These allows our bodies and minds to move out of "fight or flight" and drop into "rest and digest" - a state of relaxation when the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in.
To live an emotionally and physically balanced life, the key is finding the balance of both yin and yang in our practice, and our lives.
What are the benefits of Yin Yoga?
Self-compassion: Yin provides an opportunity to come into poses non-aggressively, and with kindness. It can be very self-soothing, especially as we're supported by blankets and bolsters - allowing ourselves to be "held".
Emotional resilience: As waves of emotions and thoughts pop up as we're in the poses for longer, we can notice these without being compelled to act upon the impulse to move. Yin can teach us the ability to adapt to uncomfortable situations in both yoga - and in life! How to surrender control and accept the situation for what it is, with patience and acceptance.
Brings balance to our lives: Too much "Yang" activity can be exhausting, as we rush from one thing to another, juggling diaries and time. A little yin is the chance to slow down and re-balance our bodies and minds.
Reduces stress and anxiety: Through triggering the parasympathetic nervous system and the chance to slow down the breath.
I was able to see first hand, how this slow and cooling practice, created a calming energetic shift with those in the room, and rekindled my love of teaching it.
If you would like to try a yin workshop in the new year, drop me a line at email@example.com, and if there is enough demand, I'll set up some session dates for the new year.