As a certified yoga instructor, I am drawn to different forms of yoga, whether it be Ashtanga, Hatha, Restorative, or the style that I am trained in, Baptiste Power Yoga. I recently completed a weekend teacher training on a brand of yoga that I have always found fascinating: Yin Yoga. Probably the best explanation that defines Yin Yoga is given by long-time instructor and best-selling author Bernie Clark in his book, The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga (2011):
If you have been doing yoga for a while now, you might be experiencing only half of the practice and just some of the benefits that are available to you. Yin Yoga is the other half. Most forms of yoga today are dynamic, active practices designed to work only half of our body, the muscular half, the “yang” tissues. Yin Yoga allows us to work the other half, the deeper “yin” tissues of our ligaments, joints, deep fascial networks, and even our bones. All of our tissues are important and need to be exercised so that we can achieve optimal health and vitality. [p. 1]
As Yin and Yang are described in ancient Daoist philosophy as two facets of existence (i.e. two sides of the same coin) that are complementary and dependent upon on another, this above quotes makes perfect sense from a holistic health perspective. It also beautifully sums up the crux of my yin yoga teacher training weekend, where I and other students gained a newfound appreciation for the importance of working our “yin” as well as our “yang” tissues.
Sarah Powers outlines three (3) principles of a yin yoga practice as follows:
- Come into a pose to an appropriate depth (or to put it in traditional yoga terms, “Find your edge.”
- Resolve to remain still.
- Hold the pose for time.
In addition to learning the origins of Yin Yoga, as well as discussing modern pioneers such as Clark and Powers, Paulie Zink, and Paul Grilley among others, we learned about the importance of prana, chakras and nadis as they pertain to Yin Yoga. What I found really fascinating is the concepts of meridians (the English translation of a Chinese word meaning a network of channels that, similar to the nadis, conduct energy throughout the subtle body), and how specific Yin Yoga flows or practices serve to “unblock” those meridians, thereby allowing a free-flow of energy to all of our vital organs.
Using blankets, blocks, bolsters and other props to assist in settling into a set number of poses held for an average of 5 – 7 minutes, Yin Yoga really appeals to older adults, people with injuries or disabilities, or who are otherwise limited in their ability to do a more dynamic, fast-paced yoga practice (especially one in a heated room). It also serves as a great complement for those who have a regular traditional yoga practice. (At the studio where I teach, it is not uncommon for members to do a 75-minute hot yoga class, then immediately take an hour-long Yin Yoga class. Again, working the Yin and Yang.)
Since completing Yin Yoga Teacher Training, I have taught two Yin Yoga classes, and to be honest, I feel like I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of it. I am so happy that I did the training, and have added another element to my teaching and overall yoga journey.
Click on the following links for more information on Yin Yoga.