A few years ago I went for a job interview at The Life Centre in London. One of the questions I was asked was: “How would you describe yin yoga to a prospective student?” I said I had no idea. I’d heard of it but hadn’t practiced it. Suffice to say, I didn’t get that job.
And now, here I am waxing lyrical about the wonders of yin yoga.
You may never have heard of yin yoga, or perhaps like me during that interview, you’ve seen it on studio schedules but haven’t ventured any further. You may have been to my monthly Hertfordshire yin yoga workshops but it’s fair to say that it’s a wonderful, nourishing practice. I’m biased, of course, but here are my five reasons why:
1. Yin yoga teaches acceptance
When you’re in a pose for a minimum of five minutes, you can’t push it. If you do, you’ll regret it. So it teaches you to stay where you feel something, but not too much – not trying to inch your forehead closer to your shins in a forward bend. And anyway, over the duration of the pose, your body will open and you’ll naturally go deeper. No pushing, no judgement, just accepting.
2. Yin yoga cultivates a beginners mind
The postures have different names in yin yoga. For example, pigeon pose is called ‘swan’. This encourages us to approach each pose with no hang-ups about how we’d ‘usually’ do the pose in a yoga class.
The mind of the beginner is empty, free of all habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt and open to all possibilities.
3. Yin yoga creates space
When we sit in a yin pose, we create space in our bodies, in our minds, and in our day-to-day lives. On a physical level, our connective tissue surrounding our joints starts to become more malleable, improving our flexibility.
A reading from Reggie Ray covers this aspect nicely:
Here’s a teaching that Chögyam Trungpa gave that has changed the way a lot of people look at their work lives: learn how to invite space into your worklife. The space itself will actually accomplish most of what you need to do. In the form of helpful people turning up, auspicious coincidences… And in so doing, you are not only opening up your self, you are opening up the world. It becomes a dance. It’s no longer your job to sit there for 10 hours doing your thing, it’s to respond to the way the world wants things to happen. It’s de-centralized.
This has felt particularly apt for me over the past few weeks. Thank you, world.
4. Yin yoga achieves balance
The weekly grind can get you down. We’re always watching the clock. We’re getting children to school/clubs on time, rushing for the train, keeping our bosses/partners happy, I could go on.
We’re also always on the go when we do finally relax. TV keeps our minds active and we also stay busy when we exercise – going to the gym, running, cycling – or even through more energetic forms of yoga such as ashtanga and vinyasa flow. They all generate heat and get you moving.
This is all great, but we have to make space to be still and surrender.
Yin provides this balance. Being still can be hard but it’s necessary to counter all the busy-ness in our hectic Western lives.
5. Yin yoga is about awareness
When we practice yin yoga, it’s inward focussed. We start to notice sensations within, and naturally you’ll find that you start to watch your mind. We notice our thoughts – whether they’re positive or negative, linked to the past or the future, and whether they’re recurring. It allows us to connect within.
So there you go. There’s my five reasons. Perhaps you’ve encountered similar things if you’ve practiced yin yoga. Feel free to leave your observations below.
I teach weekly yin yoga classes at Bermondsey Fayre, London SE1; The Yoga Hall in St Albans; and from 25 February I’ll be starting a weekly class at BAYoga Studio in Berkhamsted. More details on the class schedule page. I also teach monthly yin yoga and yin/yang workshops in Hertfordshire.
A mind that is fast is sick
A mind that is slow is sound
A mind that is still is divine.