Yin yoga is taking over the world! Okay it’s not that big, but the number of people falling in love with Yin increases every day. Why?
Perhaps it’s because we’re craving the qualities that a Yin practices provides: stillness, simplicity, self-inquiry, and just being in the present moment. Of course you get an amazing stretch, but is it the internal qualities of a Yin practice that keeps us coming back for more?
The impact yoga has on our life is so much more than just having a great time on the mat. I mean, if we’re lucky we practice for what, an hour every day? That’s about 4% of our lives, so what about the other 96%? How do we make sure we’re living as lightly, joyfully, and consciously as we can?
By taking our yoga off the mat and into our daily lives.
Taking Your Practice Off the Mat
Off the mat is when we’re making choices and decisions that can enhance — or undermine — our wellbeing. Off the mat is when we’re working, using our creative energy to feel fulfilled and make a difference in other peoples' lives. And off the mat is when we’re taking part in those meaningful relationships with people we’ve chosen to share this journey with.
So while your Yin practice might feel like a delicious dose of bliss in the middle of your week, why not aim for even more balance by applying some of those yin-spirational gems to your off-the-mat life? Here are four ways to practice Yin yoga off the mat.
1. Take 5, and Be Completely Still
How often do you actually just stop? Take a leaf from your Yin yoga book and take 5 minutes in the middle of your day to sit, stand, or lie down, and bask in stillness. Do what you’ve gotta do; book a meeting room, go to the library, sit in the park, or put a do-not-disturb sign on the bathroom door, but just be completely still.
I know what some of you are thinking, “Are you kidding? I don’t have time to be still, that’s valuable action time where I could be ticking stuff off my to-do list!” Yep, and it is also valuable inaction time, where you could be letting everything just rest in the present moment (which will probably help you approach your to-do list with more clarity and patience, anyway).
2. Respond to Challenges in a Lighter and More Conscious Way
Life will throw challenging situations your way — it’s part of the deal. You might flunk an interview, or even lose your job. You might get a flat tire on the day you're running late, or you might open your sandwich at lunchtime to find the tomato has seeped through and wet the bread.
We can’t prevent challenging situations from happening, but we can learn from them (next time, don’t add tomato) and we can use the awareness yoga gives us to respond in a lighter, more conscious way (maybe flunking the interview actually led you to your dream job anyway).
Yin yoga gives us plenty of challenges to work with. Five minutes in Dragon or Frog, anyone? You know how the teacher encourages you to observe your response to the challenge without judging the experience and without getting caught up in the story? Remember those pearls of Yin yoga wisdom next time you’re thrown a tricky moment off the mat. Hey, you might end up floating gracefully through that challenge and perhaps even seeing it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
3. Give Yourself Permission to Let Go
I often use the words “let go” as a mantra during a Yin practice to keep my mind still and my body passive. I like to silently repeat “let” on the inhale, and “go” on the exhale. Though let’s face it, it’s pretty easy to do that when you’re on the yoga mat, holding a pose, being encouraged by a teacher in a warm, candlelit studio with relaxing music in the background.
But how about when the surroundings are not that conducive to letting go?
As I alluded to in the previous point, we can be certain that life won’t always give us butterflies and rainbows (or candlelit yoga studios). What we can do though, is catch ourselves when we’re on stress-autopilot — when we’re being uptight, rigid, and tense and we can give ourselves permission to let go.
Use the mantra if it helps. I can’t tell you how many times that puppy has supported me through a tough moment.
4. Use the Breath to Release Stress and Tension
This one really relates to any style of yoga, and may seem obvious, but we don’t need to wait until we hit the mat to unwind and let go of built up stress and tension. We can do it anytime we like by simply breathing it out.
Try this. On the inhale, feel as if you’re taking in qualities like calmness and clarity, or anything else that resonates. And when you exhale, allow your stresses, concerns, worries, or any other negative energy to physically leave your body.
Doing this in the middle of a disagreement or traffic jam will help you stay calm, relaxed, and focused. Repeat as needed.
What does your Yin practice help you with in your life off the mat? Share with us in the comments below!