I practice yin yoga as a way to ease into the deep connective tissues of my body, particularly the hips and shoulders. As a dancer, yoga teacher and person who spends a lot of time driving, I get incredibly tight around my hips and the IT band. I find the length of time that the postures are held for enables to me to really feel something shifting in the connective tissue. As I practice and teach, I encourage that stillness, so that we only move to go deeper. I also find what Bernie Clark refers to as the “Goldilocks position” incredibly helpful. To sense that place where you feel just the right tension in the tissues but are also able to breathe deeply, not only benefits my body but also helps me to develop a sense of responsibility for my own body and breath, increasing my awareness.
To actually feel those aches and throbbing in the fascia around my tight hips and shoulders feels so wonderful – I feel there is more space in my body, there is a sense of ease and undoing.
In addition to releasing around the hips and shoulders, yin practice helps me to release the muscles of my face. I find, (often at the end of the day) that I worried frown, clenched jaw or tired eyes. This slow easing of the facial muscles also helps ease tension in the brain.
At the end of a busy day, the stillness comes as a relief. It “rounds of my edges”, giving me time and space to rest but still engage the body. The sensations of the body give the mind something to focus on, making yin yoga a meditative practice that I am more likely to engage in when I’m tired or agitates than if I tried to sit in meditation. My approach to practising and teaching Yin yoga is informed my mindfulness techniques. Particularly helpful is to notice the sensations of the body as they arise and mentally labelling them descriptively.
I can be a very self-critical person and yin yoga more than any other yoga practice helps me to practice compassion and non-judging. Norman Blair in his “Brightening Inner Skies” book suggests part of the practice can be a “letting go….of wanting to be better…of impressing and improving…of ambition.” I find I experience all of these things a lot in my daily life, even as a yoga teacher! Yin yoga helps to experience that place of allowing the body to settle and just be. This 60% of the pose guideline really helps here, as I can notice when I want to push further, or strive. It is much easier to notice when you’re doing this in a slow yoga practice than in other aspects of your life, but it does start to seep off the mat and into other situations. As a teacher I guide students to this place, towards a lessening of striving and judging and to encourage a sense of acceptance with whatever is there for them.
As I have got used to noticing the sensations of my body less judgementally, I have begun to notice the thoughts with more of a kind curiosity. However how I respond to these is still a work in progress!
As a yoga teacher, it seems that the yin class is the one that my students often seem to need the most. It seems to help in difficult situations but also as a regular practice. It is wonderful to see people leaving the class seeming unwound, lighter and with a sense of ease.
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