For years I've had a very dynamic Ashtanga practice.
Once when my life was rather abrasive, Ashtanga helped me deal with the knocks and energised me to roll with it and rise again. Back then, it gave me the umpf to do what a girl needed to do to survive living in a busy city, working in a male-dominated industry. But sometimes it jarred and I dug deep into my adrenals, because my attitude and approach was all wrong and I only ended up feeling fatigued.
During that time, I managed to pop a disk in my lumbar spine that makes too many Forward Bends difficult, perhaps even dangerous, and has taken extreme back bends off the menu for the foreseeable future. Queue modifications.
I love the practice of Ashtanga. I have found it nothing short of transformational. And yet, I have begun to make more room in my life for Yin.Then, I discovered the true meaning of surrender and how, instead of pushing always myself, letting go and softening and allowing myself to dissolve felt good. So good in fact, it felt amazing.
What Is Yin Yoga?
Yin is a passive practice where postures are held for between 3-5 minutes, sometimes longer. It is called Yin because it harnesses the lunar, more fluid, more feminine energetic qualities in the body by nourishing our connective tissue that calls for softening, stillness and the strength.
All these allow us to remain in a pose while being curious and contemplative, as we observe sensations as they arise, without judgement. It is a contrast to the usual Yang practices, which are usually more focused on physical strength building and mental endurance by working the body dynamically.
How Yin Yoga Has Helped Me
Both these qualities are sought after and can be found in any type of practice, but I found Yin gently gave me all the energetic benefits of a strong and dynamic practice without the need for fluid movement or multiple vinyasas. Holding poses the Yin way has helped me build a mindful relationship with my body and my mind that also benefited my Ashtanga practice.
Bernie Clarke, author of Yin Yoga, says “We do not use the body to get into a pose – we use the pose to get into our body.”
Yin provides a safe and considerate space in which I can unwind, and allows just enough spaciousness to soothe my over-stimulated system, so shots of inspiration bubble to the surface. Instead of desperately seeking solutions to my struggles, Yin yoga has shown me I don’t have to tackle everything like a bull in a china shop. Instead I can let insight guide me.
Often when we feel uncomfortable or confronted we tense up, for fear of moving into unknown spaces. Our instant response it to desire to change something. Yet Yin teaches us that when you relax and breathe into the hard edges, they soften and we feel comfortable in places and poses that were inconceivable to us before. That’s a good life lesson, wouldn’t you say?
Stop And Be Still
For some, movement is needed in order to help release mental and emotional stresses. Others find it easier to be quieter and more contemplative. Then there are some that need to feel challenged and confronted. I like Yin because it is the right combination of all of these things.
Holding postures is surprisingly challenging; not only does it bloody hurt as tensions are released, emotional and energetic blockages cleared, and fascia is stretched, but being still in an unstill world isn’t easy. We will curse and we will shake and we will tremble, and then it’s over and life moves on.
The more I explore Yin, the more value I see in it. We live in such a fast-paced world where we are taught young to strive and achieve and drive our dreams home. No one ever mentions that perhaps sometimes it pays to stop and be still, that with stillness we can go deep within.
I think it could just be the perfect remedy for a 21st century lifestyle.