Jane Holland introduces her passion for Yin Yoga and new class
Monday 4.00 – 5.30pm
In the yoga world, it’s not unusual to see new buzzwords popping up and new trends come and go. Aerial Yoga, Hip Hop Yoga, Yoga Raves, Nude Yoga and Underwater Yoga to name a few (yes they are real- google them!). Each has its unique place and provides an opportunity for self exploration and experimentation and while there are arguments as to whether this is truly yoga, the real question is simply, does it allow you to connect with self and ‘fully inhabit yourself and your life in a radically engaging and inquisitive way’?
In any case, by offering different styles of practice, we create opportunities and spaces for people to explore themselves using their body and their breath in a way that is most relevant to them as an individual. One style which has been gaining steady popularity over recent years is Yin yoga. You may have seen it popping up recently and wondered what exactly it is, what it can do for you and if it’s here to stay…
Founded by Paulie Zink, a martial arts teacher from Hollywood in the late 70s, and popularised by Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers in the 80s and 90s, Yin yoga was created as a fusion between Taoist principles and Hatha Yoga. The practice explores the movement of chi (sometimes translated so it can be more easily understood as vital force, prana or energy) around the body through a series of long held postures which help to maintain and promote elasticity in joints, encourage deep release and help to direct chi into degenerative tissues for healing.
The qualities of yin and yang are complementary polarities which cannot exist without each other. They have sometimes been described as positive and negative poles of existence that are intrinsic to all creation and therefore both essences exist within everything at all times, including the human body. Traditionally, ‘yin’ qualities are those of downward moving, more stable, cooler, less mobile, more hidden, passive and feminine. Conversely, ‘yang’ qualities are warmer, closer to the surface, masculine, more pliant and superficial.
So how does this translate to a yoga practice?
Looking at the body, we could say the muscles and skin are more yang in quality (ie warmer, closer to the surface and more pliable) as compared to the bones and connective tissues binding them which express more yin qualities (ie closer to the inner body and less mobile). The Yin practice then is mainly stationary and encourages muscles to soften, while exposing joints to pressure as the skeleton is pulled apart in a conscious and appropriate way. Since ligaments holding bones together do not have a high fluid content, they respond more slowly and thus in Yin yoga, we stay in a posture for many minutes at a time to encourage the releasing and flushing of the meridian (or energy lines) in the body and deeper tissues. The result of a consistent Yin practice is the growing back of ligaments a little bit stronger and more pliant and over time, the maintenance of elasticity in joints and the facilitation of deep healing – physically, emotionally and spiritually- as the chi is directed and guided throughout the body.
While this practice is deeply nourishing and restores flow, energy and prana to cells, it is not necessarily a passive one as many people think! The long held postures and sometimes intensity of sensation mean personal boundaries can be tried and tested with breath connection and gravity utilised as tools to help maintain focus. But the reward is great as the energetic blockages in the physical body become untangled and released, you are often left with a feeling like you’ve just spent time on the massage table and the gentle unfolding of energy and clearing opens you up in a unique and amazing way!
Yin postures are done laying down either on the back or front, seated or in tabletop and thus offer a grounding stillness and pace that is appealing to many. As we spend much of our time engaged in ‘yang’ activities in which we are rushed, busy, active and externalise much of our energy, Yin yoga gives us a chance to internalise, to investigate and to come home to a deeper place within ourselves.
For me, it provided a beautiful balance to my life, encouraging me to surrender and release into myself, allowed deeper healing of my body on all levels and created a safe space to wade further in. If you are looking for an opportunity to deepen your practice, come along on Monday afternoon at 4pm and join me to get Yin’d!