Enjoy your practice! Why slower is better
Updated: Mar 28
Part 1 of "Getting Started with Yin" series
One of the things I really like about yin is that it gives you permission to slow down and focus on just one thing at a time. It gives you a break from thinking about all the busy stuff going on in your life, and once you get into the pose you can stay there a while, relax and start to enjoy it.
Because a yin yoga class consists of a series of deliciously deep stretches – often up to 5 minutes in each floor-based twist or supported forward bend – you get to really dive deep. Where do I feel that, does it feel good, should I back off or go deeper? You have the time to make your own adjustments and find a version of that position that works for you.
I suspect that what a lot of people are looking for when they start going to yoga is a way of dealing with the stresses of today’s busy doing-based lifestyle. But their experience of a yoga class is that the calming meditative side may only come into the breathing practice at the beginning or the savasana at the end. Its so easy to lose awareness of how you are breathing during a dynamic vinyasa based class. But the entire class in Yin is like a slow moving meditation. As the body slows down, so does the mind - because there is really nothing else to do when you are lying around in a static 5min yin pose except notice what is going on inside.
A yin class might be 3hrs long and only include a small number of actual yoga poses, but its surprising just how quickly the time passes when you descend into this kind of internal journey. The teacher may guide you through which anatomical or energy systems are being worked on, or just leave you to do your own thing, focusing on your own natural breathing or on relaxing to music.
But the great joy of a Yin Yoga practice is the way that after the class you feel somehow lighter than you were when you started! And after you have been going to these classes for a while you start to notice greater freedom in your joints too. It is all about how yin works the fascia, the connective tissue, the meridians and energy systems.
Just to clarify - any yoga pose can be approached as mainly yin (held for a long time, avoiding muscular effort, supporting the body, working into connective tissues) or mainly yang (using muscles to create movement or a strong energetic hold) so you need to approach it in the right way for what you are trying to achieve.
Below are some instructions for a yin style pose you can try called banana-asana. But first, remember, if you want to try it out start with 2 minutes each side, then relax in the middle and build up to 5 mins each side over a few days. If it feels too intense just back off a bit – there is no need to go to your full stretch right away. Yin is about being patient. Allow your body to adjust, to relax. When you try this pose ask yourself where you are feeling it - does your experience of the stretch change after 2-3 minutes? What about if you do it every day for a week, how is that different to when you started?
-Lie on your back on the floor, arms resting above your head.
-Shift your hips to the right, and your arms/shoulders to the left then the lower part of your body, your legs and feet to the left as well.
- Keep your back and shoulders flat on the floor, it is a side stretch not a twist.
-Ta-da! you are in the shape of a bendy banana.
- After you have held this for 2 mins (or 20 breaths) go back to the starting position of lying flat on your back with everything in line and your hands down by your side, rest here for a little while.
-Now do the other side, hips to left, arms/shoulders right, legs/feet right.
- Hold for the same amount of time and then don‘t forget to rest, lying out straight again at the end.
Let me know how you get on!!!