What is Yin Yoga and why would someone want to practice it?

Many of my clients are aware that I am also a Yoga Instructor and often ask me for postures for certain issues they may be dealing with. I often offer them a restorative or passive yoga posture to do which calms the nerves and heals the body.

Yin Yoga is a transformational enquiry into the internal landscape of the body, mind and spirit. It is a passive enquiry that requires being with what shows up. One of the most powerful and inspiring aspects of Yin Yoga is that it truly is accessible for everyone. Because of the focus on deep mindful breathing and connecting to one’s own body through the breath Yin Yoga is definitely not just a work out. It can be a healing journey that may profoundly change one’s life and the quality of day to day activities and relationships not only with others but one’s own self. Yin Yoga is a self-healing system that people from all walks of life can use at any time. It just takes one step into ones heart and onto the mat.

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Ying Yoga gently stretches and pulls the connective fascia tissue while holding long held poses or shapes. It releases the flow of synovial fluid, increases blood flow to the joints and organs and lengthens the muscles – causing more agility and range of motion. An important tenant of the poses is finding your edge in a pose and breathing into it while allowing your body to melt into it, or ease back depending on what your body is telling you. When we are in Yin poses we are in a container of knowledge. We are in a in a quiet space where we can allow our self to enquire within and be with what is.

Yin Yoga is suitable for all people. It is our own inner healer and connects with our body’s inner intelligence. It frees and heightens the body’s capacity to heal and balance and frees the chi energy throughout the body through the meridian channels. Yin yoga classes are quiet and focused, combining long-held poses (usually 2 to 5 minutes) with mindfulness meditation and breath work. Yin poses are practiced with the muscles relaxed, allowing the benefits to move deeper into the connective tissues of your body. This opens up your range of motion, and leaves behind a surprising sense of lightness and ease. It also makes the practice a good complement for more active forms of yoga, and for other forms of exercise that target the muscles. The practice of Yin Yoga helps with insomnia, gives us a sense of youthfulness and helps the mind become more subtle.

Before we begin any practice of Yin Yoga we take a moment to check in with ourselves and notice how does our body feels. We start with where the person is at. What do they need on the first day? We meet them where they are at. We begin a Yin Yoga practice by focusing on the breath. This opens the doors and prepares us to synchronise breath with movement. One of the most powerful and inspiring aspects of Yoga is that it truly is accessible for everyone. Because of the focus on deep mindful breathing and connecting to one’s own body through the breath Yin Yoga is definitely not just a work out.

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Sleeping Swan Pose

Sleeping swan pose is a deep hip opener and stretches the thighs, groins, and psoas. Stretching the piriformis muscle can relieve sciatic pain. Those with hip or knee problems should practice this pose gently. Those with lower back problems may want to omit the backbend. Pregnant students should take care with any forward-bending pose.

We are looking to hold the pose for 3 to 5 mins. From child’s pose take an inhale and bring your right knee forward and place your shin and knee at the front of your right hip with your right foot in front of your left hip. If you feel tightness or your thigh is not resting on the floor we will place a blanket or bolster under the right hip. Look back at your left leg to make sure it is straight and behind your left hip. You can stay up with your hands on the floor on front of you and this will take pressure of your knee. As you listen to your body you can either stay or move forward on to your forearms and push your weight back into the hips. From here if the pose is available to you can gently bring your head to the floor and your arms extended out in front or place your hands under your forehead and make a fist to rest. This shape will be lighter on the front knee while being heavier in the hips. But do listen to your knees.

If you have sciatica or at any point you feel low back pain in the pose, back off, draw your low belly in and lengthen through your spine to avoid compression. A folded blanket, foam block, or bolster under the bent leg thigh will add support and may relieve the pain. If you are feeling any tension or pain around the front knee, place the foot closer to the opposite groin, and consider a supportive blanket, block, or bolster under the thigh. If this pose is putting strain on your knee then avoid it altogether and take eye of the needle pose- 3- 5 mins.

If you have done yin yoga before you will know that there are three principles. The first is coming in to your edge –  after we have held the pose for a bit the edge will move. Allow yourself to come further into it.  Coming to your edge increases the chi flow of energy through the meridians. Your edge is the furthest range of movement within your natural range of movement.The second phase after we come to an edge is to stay. If the pose becomes painful burning sharp or tingly that is a sign to back off. The third principle is time .. Let the pose soak in — allowing the natural pull of gravity. As we rest into the pose the synovial fluid is moistening and nourishing the joints and we can naturally drop deeper. We are allowing the Yin qualities of surrender and observation. This is like along acupuncture session. Sarah Owen refers to a heightened sense of clarity and restfulness – “acubliss”. Today we will hold the pose for 5 mins or what is appropriate to you.

I invite you to close your eyes and take all your awareness within and notice what is arising right now what you are feeling. Begin to notice areas of openness or spaciousness and continue to release any areas of tension. I invite you to come out of the head and into the body. Simply noticing what is here right now. Allowing the body to soften. Turn the attention towards the breath and simply notice what it is like right now without judgment. Scanning your body relax any tension in those areas that you notice and allow the breath to travel all the way down. Breathe into any areas of tension. Allow the breath to deepen and even as you scan your body and soften into the pose. There is nowhere to be and nowhere to go. Where is your body feeling it the most and resisting it the most? Notice where you feel it. Notice how the inhale gives you space and the exhale creates warmth. Sometimes it can feel nice to notice what is happening around the shoulders, neck, face jaw, across the sacrum. Notice how it feels down the extended back leg, letting the leg relax. The jaw softens. Let the belly relax. Can you feel how that offers space around your sacrum? You can be in the posture many more minutes but when you feel ready to come out slowly come back into child pose or what feels right to you – sometimes down dog. Give yourself enough time before you move to the opposite side. Sit back and feel the repair response.

As we come into the left side remember you can use any props you might need. If this doesn’t feel right for your body today you can come on to your back and take eye of the needle. Relaxing all tension, collecting and unifying the intention on the breath. As the intensity starts to increase draw the attention towards the breath soften the body and staying with this present moment. This present moment is all there is. Travel down the body. You may feel emotions and feelings in this pose. Emotions have a pattern – allow them to come and notice them then allow them to enter and notice them. As we come into the shape and we come up against our resistance – maybe this is in the physical body or maybe the mind – as we move into the posture we may meet that resistance. Once we find this area we relax allowing all the muscular that is not needed to complete let it go. This letting go allows us to activate the connective tissue in the body — so when we come into the shape we pressurize the tissue in an appropriate way to increase chi prana and fluid into certain areas. So once we have found a place of ease and comfort coming back to the presence of the breath and relaxing any physical tension you are holding or resistance …deep complete inhale and deep complete exhale. We find a place of appropriate stress and relax the physical body and resolve to be fairly still and this is a point where we can gauge our mindfulness practice so this practice of yoga is training for the body and the mind. So we stay with this present moment. We return over and over again to the breath and the body.

In this pose we stimulate the gallbladder meridian which begins at the outer corner of the eye and ends past the ankle to the big toe where it connects to the liver meridian. If you wake up during the night at the same time, or become exhausted at the same time every day in the afternoon, you can look at the meridian that’s active and what may be happening with you. The gallbladder meridian is most active between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

The emotions that correspond with the liver and gallbladder meridian include frustration, anger and resentment. The liver is the most emotion sensitive organ and its weakness is often connected to emotional sensitivity. The key responsibilities associated with the gallbladder and liver are decision making, determination and action. The liver controls ability to plan one’s life, while the gallbladder controls the capacity to make decisions.

Give yourself permission to be with yourself and listen to what arises, quietly observing and paying attention to the breath as you engage with the deeper essence of yourself. What feelings and thoughts arise … just notice. Let your attention come to the breath, simply watching the breath as it goes in and out. See if you can give yourself permission to be as you are in this moment.

Derek Walker, who is a poet and teacher at many Universities in the US has this to say about being with your Self in this poem called: After Love

“Listen carefully, the time will come with elation where you will greet yourself arriving at your own door in your own mirror and each will smile at the others welcome and say sit here, eat. You will love again the stranger who was yourself. Give wine give bread. Give back your heart to yourself to the stranger who has loved you all of your life, who you have ignored for another who knows you by heart. You will love again the stranger who was yourself. Give wine give bread. Give back your heart to yourself to the stranger who has loved you all of your life who you have ignored for another who knows you by heart”.

In your own time and on the inhale slowly and mindfully come out of the pose and bring yourself into Child pose. Observe how you feel now to when you felt at the beginning of the practice.

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