Teacher training: Yin Yoga

We’ve just finished five days of Yin Yoga with Yogi Nora and it’s been a funny old week.

The classes were great – two hours of complete bliss doing a handful of poses aimed at increasing our flexibility by holding for anything between three and 20 minutes.

In Yin, you use bolsters and blankets to feel supported and there’s little emphasis on alignment. The poses work on stretching the body’s tendons and ligaments and, by holding for extended periods of time, you’re safely working to open these connective tissues. You breathe through your abdomen and there’s no mention of mula bandha. It all felt much more familiar to me than the regimented exertion of Ashtanga. Nora warned us the practice was very deep – opening both physically and mentally and the experience was emotional for many of us. 

In the first afternoon session Nora talked about the principles behind the practice – one of which is about how you shouldn’t engage your muscles. This was totally at odds with the anatomy that the ninja Michelle Lam taught us a few weeks ago –  ie the only way to avoid injury is by engaging all your muscles as if your life depended on it. Many on the course have pre-existing injuries and were wary/sceptical of Nora’s teachings. This clip from Paul Grilley explains the theory of Yin well.

I was trying to stay open and positive as I was enjoying her classes despite her use of words such as “crotch” and “gut” and phrases including “you need to lift like a mother, man”. But maybe I’m being a reserved Brit.

As the week progressed, we played tag as we each taught different poses to the rest of the class. It’s a different ballgame when there’s little to say about alignment. Our goal was to keep students focused in the poses without letting them die, man. We read spiritual quotes, invented meditations, encouraged them to “let it all hang out” and “inhaling and then exhaling blurrrrghhh…blurrrghh…blurrrrghhhhhhh”. Drooling on the mat is totally ok in the world of Yin.

Yesterday, four of us missed her final class. Lovely Abu Dhabi Debbie’s stepmum died unexpectedly and Lucy was mugged by two guys on a scooter on the road outside the resort. The other two were visiting the chiropractor. Morale is quite low but Michel and Rosalyn have been marvellous offering hugs and support to those in need.

We ended our five-day week by Michel showing us the film Siddhartha, an Indian spiritual Ben Hur, and I loved it. Watch a trailer here:

Siddhartha eventually gains enlightenment working as a ferryman taking people across a river. Over breakfast today I discussed the film’s messages with Michel and he talked about how whichever way we try and row our boat, the current will always take us in the correct direction. We can go against the flow, but it’ll get us in the end. Things happen because they’re meant to happen and it’s what we learn from the experiences that’s important. We also discussed our love of cats and that was nice too.

Has anyone else done Yin? Any thoughts? I’d like to include Yin in my personal practice and teach it on my return home.

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