We live in a fast-paced world. We work all day, grab a cardio workout, chase after our children, do chores in the home, and get too little sleep before we do it all over again. Humans, by nature, are doers. All of this striving is yang energy. Yang is fast, hot, and active. These aren't bad qualities by any means but if we don’t consciously make an effort to slow down and spend some time in the cool passiveness of yin we will eventually burn out. We need balance.
There are yin and yang attributes to everything and one cannot exist without the other. The cool shade (yin) found under a tree on a hot and sunny (yang) day cannot exist without these contrasting elements. Shade doesn’t exist without light and light only exists when contrasted by darkness. The practice of yin yoga brings harmony to all the yang in our lives.
So what exactly is yin yoga? Yin yoga is known as the “quiet practice”. You settle into just a handful of deep postures in a sixty to ninety-minute class. Yin bypasses the muscles most often focused on in exercise and targets the connective tissue in the body, particularly in the hips, pelvis, and lower spine. It also stimulates energy lines within the body that carry fresh prana to vital internal organs. We find an appropriate edge of compression and pressure and we passively investigate, allowing the tension to spiral out of the body. It’s slow and receptive, a practice of disengagement and non-striving. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. One of the things I say to many students over and over is one of the most difficult things they can do at times is settle in stillness. This practice can be quite challenging because you are asked to remain in a posture for anywhere from one minute to up to twenty minutes! What is one to do with all that time?!
Well, just BE.
Tune in to the sensations in your body. The movement of energy. Be curious about what is happening in your internal landscape. As I said, this practice can be challenging, but it's suitable for nearly all levels of students. It is a perfect complement to the yang styles of yoga and exercise that emphasize heat, sweat, and the building of muscle and a perfect pacifier to a fast-paced lifestyle. Go ahead and carve out thirty minutes in your day to try out this short yin practice below. Bernie Clark is my favorite yin teacher and I highly recommend his book Yinsights: A Journey into the Philosophy & Practice of Yin Yoga to anyone interested in learning more about this amazing practice. Let us know how you feel afterward!
A yin practice for beginners
Take a minute or two in a neutral position between poses to notice the sensations in the body.
Butterfly - 3 minutes
Dragonfly - fold-over right leg for 3 minutes; fold over left leg 3 minutes; fold down the center for 3 minutes
Sphinx - 3 minutes