Yin Yoga: Get intimate with yourself

15-Nov-2014

Yin yoga, also referred to as Taoist yoga is becoming more and more popular on the modern yoga scene. While still a lesser known and understood form of yoga, as more and more practitioners discover the style and its many benefits, yin yoga is sure to move its way to yoga’s forefront. Most styles of yoga popular among modern yogis are yang in nature. They are muscular and dynamic. It’s important to complement your yoga practice with the yin-style for many reasons. Let’s explore the style in detail so that we can better understand the hows and whys of its inner workings.

On a physical level, yin yoga is the perfect practice to prepare us for sitting meditation - a discipline that more and more of us are realizing is essential to our mental, emotional and spiritual growth. When we sit in meditation, we are aiming for a long spine that is supported by the vertical alignment of the pelvis. Yin poses help us with this alignment.

It’s true, that ashtanga, kundalini, vinyasa and other dynamic yoga styles help us prepare to sit and meditate. However, the passive yin style is an even more essential complement to our meditation practice if we wish to sit for long periods of time. The yang styles of yoga focus on muscular movement, whereas yin yoga targets the deep connective tissues of the body - tendons, ligaments and fascia. As we sit in meditation, with a long spine and open hips, we are relying upon the flexibility of our connective tissues to support us. A gentle stretch which we hold for a long period of time makes connective tissues grow longer and stronger.

It’s also a wonderful style of yoga to illustrate the connection between Western science and the energy systems of the human body within the Indian yoga and Chinese medicine traditions. Until recently, no scientific evidence existed that there were actual energy maps within the human body. However, Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama and Dr. James Oschman are in the process of finding that our connective tissue might provide the pathways (referred to as nadis or meridians) through which the energy, or prana flows. When we open up those tissues, energy can flow freely. It becomes more balanced. This is compelling information that may motivate us to incorporate a yin practice into our regular yoga practice.

Another very cool aspect of a yin yoga practice is that it sorta forces us to get intimate with our stuff. As with any practice, the slower we go, the more present we must be. It’s easier to gloss over our issues when flowing through a vigorous ashtanga sequence or dance-like vinyasa practice. When we slow down, when we get present, things naturally bubble up. And this is something we want to let happen and support. A yin practice does just this.

There’s a concept in Ayurveda that goes something like this:

Ama is anything that remains undigested within our bodies. When we profoundly open the hips and sit in positions for long periods of time that force us into mindfulness (as yin yoga poses do) we begin to release and balance this accumulated energy - which could be anything. Ama can be unprocessed food that makes us feel lethargic and manifests as the bile or mucus layer. It can be unprocessed thoughts or emotions that leave us feeling depleted or depressed, manifesting in the energetic-emotional layer of the body. The hips are one of the largest storehouses of accumulated energy or ama. If you can start your day by stirring up the cauldron of the hips you can release a lot of this latent energy.

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