Yin yoga is a gentle and uplifting practice that helps us heal both our hearts and minds. It is the ultimate nurturing self-care enabling our our bodies to commune with us.
It differs enormously from Vinyasa yet is the perfect complement! By having a Yin and a Yang yoga practice, you are creating a beautiful balance within your energy systems and a unique sense of calmness you will feel both physically and mentally.
Instead of merely focussing on movement, Yin Yoga emphasises the importance of slowing down through stretching, rest and introspection. Like a cool breeze on a hot summer’s day, Yin Yoga provides the user with a quick respite from the pressures that often burden us in this modern age.
Nourishment and balance
The word balance can be used as both a noun and verb, therefore allowing it to be viewed as both a state of doing and being. It is a divine state of equilibrium where all parts are equal. Your mind, emotions, body and soul all require different forms of nourishment in order to support this balance – in the form of a healthy diet, physical movement, rest, meditation, or exploration. When we nourish ourselves from within we are able to uplift and replenish our energy fields, leaving us feeling rejuvenated, restored and full of introspection. Nourishment gives us the energy to step out of the comfort of what we perceive to be our reality. It enables us to explore new realities and perspectives with enthusiasm, clarity, focus, willpower and curiosity – therefore allowing us to keep our balance in a world that is in a continuous state of evolution and change. It is important to be mindful of the idea that challenges and difficulties do not present themselves with the intention of throwing you off balance, but rather to test it and to allow it to grow. This, in turn, provides great insights, in a divine reflection, into your growth and progress as a human.
We all experience moments of feeling lost or disconnected from ourselves, those around us and the world at large. This can leave you feeling tense, fatigued or agitated. It may also lead to the judgment of both self and other. When we experience these feelings we need to reset, ground ourselves and find the inner light that brings us back into balance. Yin Yoga allows us to retreat within, to embrace changes, stretch our resilience and accept our circumstances with kindness and without feeling overwhelmed by life’s ‘stories’ or occurrences.
Chi and the meridians
Ancient Chinese tradition often refers to the meridians – a network of pathways through which spiritual energy, or chi, is able to flow like water through the body. Chi can either have a yin or yang energy. Yang has been described as being masculine in nature, having a powerful, active or strong energy. Yin, on the other hand, is gentle and feminine, being nurturing and supportive. Yin and Yang are often posed as divine opposites and often work in harmony to support each other.
There are predominantly twelve meridians, which are broken equally into six yang meridians and six yin meridians. These pairs support and nourish the organs, tissues and functions of the body, as well as playing a part in emotional and mental expression and development. The flow and balance of these meridians is supported through exercise, herbal medicine and acupuncture. Stimulating specific areas of the body paves the way towards an improved and balanced energy flow within the body. Research has shown that the meridian points can be found in the soft tissue, or fascia, throughout the body. This uninterrupted system of fibres covers the organs, muscles, bones, blood vessels and nerve endings and gives structure and support to the body in the form of posture and form.
A healthy fascia provides strength and elasticity but, if not stimulated regularly, it could weaken and lead to injury. Gentle ways to rejuvenate the fascia include gentle pressure and long stretches. Holding poses from two to ten minutes can improve the flexibility, grace and fluidity of one’s muscles, organs and ligaments. This could lead to an improved mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
A heightened awareness through Yin Yoga
The various poses and stretches that are utilised in Yin Yoga allow for the participant to step into a deeper psychological awareness with oneself, as well as with his or her own emotional and transpersonal awareness. It enables one to gracefully step into the natural flow of life, allowing one to accept life in all its challenges as it swiftly ebbs and flows. By bringing the participant into a greater sense of unity and awareness, a higher state of observation is achieved, where a heightened understanding of life is awakened. It is a daily dose of compassion and nurturing from yourself to yourself, an integral path that paves the way back to balance.
Yin Yoga for everyone
Push your physical boundaries
Yin Yoga positions aren’t always comfortable. It’s about stretching the body, the mind and the emotions to allow you to expand and grow and shake up your boundaries. Poses should test the body and could allow for discomfort, this is perfectly normal. However, do not continue if you are finding it increasingly painful or aggressive.
Using props for a more comfortable rhythm
Yoga isn’t all about poses and stretches. It’s about finding your inner point of silence, relaxation, or reflection. Props, such as bolsters and blankets, can help you to relax and ease into the process of working with your targeted areas, thereby allowing you to relax without tension.
Challenge yourself with gentility instead of force
Remember that yoga is a doorway through which you are able to enter into a deeper sense of communication with your body. It is important to push yourself, but not beyond what the body is willing to endure. Deep breathing and a state of clarity and calmness are equally as important as moving the body. Therefore, try to use only 70 to 80 per cent of your body’s maximum ability. The rest of the space will allow the breath to flow. Hold your poses for up to five minutes and utilise this time for deep inner travel and reflection.
It’s all about the breath
Yoga is a time for deep meditation and mindfulness. Use your breath as a pillar of support to guide you through the emotions or thoughts that may arise. Like water, allow it to flow as your thoughts, both pleasant and unpleasant, move through you and transform you. You may even want to try directing your breath and intention to areas of the body that require deeper relaxation.
Using Yin Yoga to nourish your spleen and liver
By assisting you to embrace reflection and kindness to yourself and all facets of your being, Yin Yoga is able to support healthy muscles, ligaments and tendons. Yin Yoga has also been used to support the liver and spleen – which are both responsible for the flow, distribution and nourishment of blood – the rivers of life and emotion. The spleen is known for its ability to transform nutrients from the food we consume into spiritual chi, which then travels throughout the body. The liver then stores and supports this chi, which is used as nourishment for the body and mind. There are a few positions in Yin Yoga that allow you to soften the spleen and the liver, allowing for a calmer and more gentler version to step through the anger, judgment and aggression that may be experienced in everyday life. These positions include sukhasana, twisted sukhasana, sukhasana forward fold, upright dragon, sleeping swan, half dragonfly side stretch, and metta meditation.