Yin Yoga has multiple benefits for our bodies. It focuses on the hips, pelvis and lower-back, parts of us that are prone to stiffness and injury, particularly as we age. It targets connective tissue (ligaments, fascia, tendons) with gentle long holds so they become longer and stronger. After just one class I hear people say that their body feels stretched out and more relaxed, that they notice the release of aches and pains. A regular practice will increase your joint mobility.
Personally however I value the practice of Yin Yoga most for the effect it has on my mood and emotional wellbeing. If I’m fatigued, feeling overwhelmed, or under the weather, eventually I remember that things will seem better if I pause and take just a few Yin poses.
It’s easy to numb or stimulate ourselves when we are feeling less than great: alcohol, immersion in work, shopping, food, social media, Netflix… But in the last few years I have learned that taking the time to find stillness, to feel everything happening in my body and the emotions moving through me, is the most effective way to shift myself to a more peaceful and relaxed state. Quite often I try wine and ice-cream first, but a mindful Yin session always brings longer-lasting results.
The wealth of media at our fingertips has made it harder than ever for us to be simply present in our body with our feelings. But if we want to understand the depths of our complex internal world, to allow emotions, our creativity, intuition and sensitivity to surface their messages, we must pause so they have our attention and time.
Yin Yoga gives us the opportunity to be present with all our layers – physical, mental and energetic. This awareness combined with pressure on our physical body can help release emotions and tensions in our tissues. Some practitioners believe that Yin Yoga taps into the Meridians (energy channels) of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which are said to affect the flow of our emotions and our wellbeing - but this deserves a separate blog post.
Sometimes slowing down and looking inside is a scary prospect, but the breath is our resource throughout. With each exhale we can let go a little of whatever we are holding onto, and each inhale brings in fresh life and possibility. With practice we can loosen our attachment to the changing thoughts, moods, and feelings that are constantly passing through us. And hopefully we finish our Yin practice feeling a little lighter, softer, more embodied and at ease.
Do you have the patience
to wait till your mud settles
and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.
(from chapter 15 of the Tao Te Ching, 4-6th Century BC,
translation by Stephen Mitchell)
By Karen Iles
Karen teaches Yin Yoga on Fridays at 11.30, she also teaches Hatha Yoga on Wednesdays at 19.45 and Saturdays at 11.15.