Over the past decade and a half of doing yoga, I have experienced great joy in my practice. Although I am not a teacher and haven’t guided a class, I know what my body likes which puts into relevancy that a persons personal practice should be the only benchmark of a successful exercise regime, not what everybody else is doing.
I have tried many forms of yoga and for the most part each practice adds a bit more depth to my understanding of the benefits of yoga, not to mention proper technique. As I get older, having suffered a couple car accidents and watching an older generation get less limber, I can’t help but express my love for yin yoga. I discovered it almost 10 years ago and I have cherished the practice ever since. Yin yoga has many benefits which I’m sure you are aware of: stretching the fascia tissues to allow greater movement for the muscles, a more meditative practice, a moment of silence in what often is a hectic day.
Aside from this, there are things in yin that I find of great merit which you don’t often see in other classes:
1) The ability to completely surrender yourself. I’ve had yin yoga classes where the teacher for 2 hours will turn off the lights, ask us to close our eyes and let the body be the guiding force. Especially in child’s pose, allowing the body to actively rest on the ground, our face planted to the surface, allowing the limbs to melt in a position that reverses the poor posture we carry throughout the day. Yin yoga is often a humbling process, which in turn allows you to appreciate things more in your daily life. Is it a coincidence that child’s pose is similar to praying in so many religions? Allowing one to be one with the earth has a literal effect of keeping grounded. Surrendering your mind and body is often difficult for most people, but like all things it gets better the more you practice.
2) The ability to think through and allow yourself moderate pain. During a good yin yoga class, some of those poses are pretty painful. To be fair, the tensed up muscles are bound with emotional energy, so not only are you hitting your tolerance for pain in that pose, often emotional stuff will come up as well. Allowing yourself to feel pain and allowing your mind to ease it is a powerful thing. It’s practicing to disconnect your reaction from your pain and emotional tolerance. This is your freedom that nobody can take away from you. Although this is an exaggerated example, Victor Frankl who wrote Man's Search for Meaning, knew this well.
3) Yin yoga is not a competitive sport, nor is there any ego attached to the outcome. In regular practice, you scan the room, see who’s wearing what, check yourself out in the mirror, adjust your pose to “look” better, see who has a better pose than you, see if the colours you are wearing match, judge the amount you are sweating and sometimes be harshly critical of yourself. Yin takes all that away. Your eyes are closed and all you think of is breathing. And the more you concentrate on breathing, the more like Nirvana it feels. Incidentally, Nirvana is a Sanskrit word, no doubt thousands of years ago our yogi forefathers felt the same with their practice.
4) The ability to revert back to a child. Other yoga classes often build strength, yin yoga allows you to be limber like your younger years. We associate memories with our endurance and physique during a period in our life. Perhaps it was the first time you jumped off a high diving board, when you hit a certain weight while weight lifting or the first time you ran a full marathon. We look back on old photos and think, I used to be able “to do this”. Yin yoga gives you the playfulness and memories of being a child: the times you rolled on your back in laughter, when you would put your legs behind your head, when you would fall asleep on the couch in fetal position hugging your blanket. Combined with the last point of losing your ego, yin yoga is really reverting back to pure innocence.
If yin yoga is not part of your practice, I would suggest to try it out. If you’re starting, please be gentle with your first few practices. Often studios will have night classes which are perfect before you go to sleep. On a personal note, I have loved using the Baktuli towel for yin and so happy it is a regular part of this practice. Having a soft cotton and comfy odorless towel to work on allows you to concentrate on (and surrender to) what’s important in yin. However you practice, let the shine come from the inside out!
Shine like the whole universe is yours. -Rumi