Meditation in Action
Yin yoga was born from Taoist philosophy. The postures are more passive, occur mainly on the floor and are held for longer periods of time. It’s unique in that you let gravity do the work. There is no efforting. We surrender and release.
This is a genre of yoga that focuses on the deeper connective tissues wrapping around the joints, particularly in your hips, pelvis and lower spine. Poses are held longer, about five minutes rather than the typical five breaths. Although in the beginning the hold time is less, about two minutes.
Yin offers deeper access to the body. The time spent in these postures is much like time spent in meditation. While in a posture, or asana, I may add information about the body to facilitate self-study. Content from previous sessions may be folded in to deepen insight and understanding. Each session is unique, based on your personal needs.
Yoga Based Therapy
Yin yoga is the perfect companion to somatic psychotherapy. This intimate, quiet practice creates space to explore feelings, sensations and emotions in a gentle and inviting way. For this reason it’s often used in programs that deal with addictions, eating disorders, anxiety and deep pain or trauma. It is a rich, living experience of self-love and self-compassion.
I began practicing yin yoga in 2003 with Paul Grilley. By emphasizing form over aesthetics, Paul developed a “functional approach” to yin yoga. The mantra of the functional approach is that every skeletal structure is different. There is not “right” way. There is only learning to discriminate what works for you, by listening to your body.
Three Principles of Yin Yoga
The first principle in a yin yoga is that we find our appropriate edge.
This means no sharp shooting pain, no burning, no electric sensation. If there is, you simple readjust. You want to be able to breath easily and freely. If you come too close to an edge, you lose the flow of qi. About 70% is good. So often, we push past our edge. The practice of yin is a chance to intentionally choose a softer edge that allows our muscles to soften so we can reach the connective tissues.
The second principle of yin yoga is that we commit to be still.
Become still, allow your muscles to soften, let gravity take the weight of your body. We want the energy to pool in the deeper layers of the bones and joints. If we continue to move, the energy will move to the more superficial layers of the muscles.
The stillness of the pose will also allow us to access the yin qualities of surrender, ease, relaxation, and restfulness. This allows us to explore physical sensations and emotions without our usual opinions glommed onto them. We may not like what comes up and that’s okay. We’re learning to lean into discomfort.
The third principle of yin yoga is that we stay for a while.
In a typical yin yoga practice we stay for about five minutes. The reason we stay for longer is to affect the deeper connective tissues that wrap around the joints and bones.
While muscles love the fast rhythmic repetitive action to develop strength and flexibility, the connective tissues require slow, gentle traction over a longer period time. This dense and less pliant tissue needs the effect gravity over time.