This past weekend I took part in a 27-hour Yin Yoga and Meditation Teacher Training and holy crap, you guys – it was incredible.
Most people think of Yin yoga as restorative yoga – you know, the classes where you lounge on your mat with piles of blankets and bolsters and drift off into cozy yoga bliss (which is amazing in it’s own right) – but Yin is a totally different animal (with the exception of the fact that Yin LOVES props).
This training was a combo of the Western medicine perspective (think, science class), the Daoist perspective (think, meridians and life force), the Yogic perspective (think, breathwork and energy), and the Buddhist perspective (think, mindfulness) – they all work together and serve their purpose in understanding these ancient practices.
Yin + meditation are all-inclusive, yo!
I’m sure you know my stance on meditation by now (it rules), so let me break down what Yin’s all about for ya.
Unlike pretty much any traditional exercise, you want to practice Yin in a cool room with cool muscles. Heat takes away the benefits of the practice. It focuses on exercising the “other half” of your body, the half that essentially everyone neglects – your connective tissues (bone, tendons, fascia, ligaments, and cartilage).
It’s a practice that’s designed around stillness and space – and each posture creates healthy stress that sends signals to your body to hydrate, strengthen and lengthen connective tissue. It’s also super detoxifying.
I am fully convinced that if you practice Yin regularly (and safely) that your body and mind will feel young forever. It’s regenerative, rather than degenerative.
If you practice Vinyasa yoga, a lot of the Yin postures will look familiar to you – but they’re called by different names because the intention behind them is completely different than it is in your typical Yang yoga class.
It’s all about cultivating awareness for what’s happening in your body, mind, energy, and spirit – and what could be better than that? Yin has four guiding principles:
1. Come into each pose to an appropriate physical sensation. The goal is not to be in pain, and not to push yourself – if you’re feeling it, you’re doing it.
2. Hold in relative stillness. Your connective tissues are like plastic and require long, passive stresses – unlike your muscles which are more like rubber and require vigorous, repetitive stresses – it’s key to disengage your muscles during Yin.
3. Hold for time. Yin poses can be held anywhere from 1-20 min, with the sweet spot usually being between 3-5 min. It takes time for this type of deep cellular nourishment to happen.
4. Transition out slowly. This is essential to avoid injury as your tissues are fragile immediately after being stressed.
There’s so much fascinating science behind this, seriously, guys it’s SO cool, but I’ll spare you the novel for now. In short, each pose is designed to restore deep harmony and balance in the body and mind, which for most of us is completely out of whack due to our lifestyle habits.
The other thing I love about Yin is that it teaches you to embrace uncomfortable situations, to find ways to get comfortable in them – which applies to life off your mat as well.
As you’re sitting there holding your pose for a designated period of time it’s key to be present and mindful of breath, sensation, energy, and emotion by turning your focus within.
That’s where mindfulness meditation comes in – in each pose you become the observer of all of these things without judgement, and remind yourself that everything is impermanent. Instead of running away from the sensations in your body, you welcome them, you send breath to these places and observe them change as time goes on.
Isn’t that a freakin’ rad way of experiencing life in general? Present, mindful, non-attached, and non-judgmental – sign me up!
The more we practice this way of being in the world, the more we reprogram our brains (seriously) to default to those types of joy-inducing thought patterns.
And the more we practice Yin postures, the more we reprogram our bodies to strengthen and regenerate our connective tissue – which is basically the integrity of our whole physical structure.
Of course, as with anything in life it’s all about balance – you cant have Yin without Yang and vice versa – but the stillness, strength, and space that you’ll cultivate during Yin will help carry you through your (most-likely) mostly-Yang lifestyle.
P.S. If you live in New England and want to get in on this training goodness, check out deets here! Sagel is a truly incredible teacher – you won’t regret it.