Yin yoga is a way of doing yoga where you will experience mostly seated, supine, or prone poses. And you will stay in the poses, not moving, with your muscles relaxed for long periods of time – up to five minutes, sometimes longer.
Staying muscularly passive for long periods of time gently stresses the connective tissue (which gets stiff and immobile with age and through too much or too little use). Yin yoga poses focus mainly on the lower parts of the body because the abundance of dense connective tissue around the joints in these areas requires extra care and attention.
The practice of Yin yoga introduces us to the natural edges of our beings in a graceful way. If we push our edges or lead a life that is constantly yang (always active; doing); we move into too much yang, burning energy rather than conserving. On the other hand, if we draw inward too much or lead a too passive lifestyle, we start moving away from life and being present, into the past, sliding backward. Too much yin or too much yang creates imbalances. They need to co-exist side by side in order for us to live our lives in harmony and balance.
Inner stillness for awareness
So from an individual standpoint it is all about becoming aware of the stressors you have in your life and how they affect you. Maybe you cannot remove them, but what you can do is find alternative ways of relating to them and noting how much impact they have in our life. Here, a Yin yoga practice cultivates one’s ability to attain higher sensory awareness and ability to identify what these stressors are, the tension they accumulate and also how to work on how to reduce pressure and tension. This is in order to get circulation and prana to move more freely and also to reduce stress in mind and spirit.
When we can attain inner stillness for a couple of minutes daily, we can get better perspective on where we are in life and how life plays out both within and without. Through the practice of Yin yoga, one targets the fascia/connective tissue in the body, which makes it a marvellously therapeutic tool for healing bodily, mental, and emotional imbalances. Yin yoga is most effective when more active forms of yoga or exercise are also practiced regularly.
For me, years of vigorous yoga practice – breathing deep while standing on my head, hands, underarms, in deep backbends, rotations, and forward bends – made me stronger and more alive, but I still did not have a real sense of calm and serenity. Through incorporating a regular Yin yoga practice, there it was – the connection between the mind being at ease and the body feeling alive and strong. I was amazed that the benefits of my yoga practice lingered much longer. It was as if my body and mind became best friends, allowing the third wingman, spirit, to reveal itself.
Calming the whirlpool of the mind
Yin yoga is to me, a wonderful tool for quieting the riffles of the mind, called Vrittis, in order to cultivate a more aware presence in life, but also as a phenomenal preparation for meditation. It is also a perfect bridge between meditation and a more vigorous yoga practice.
We usually colour our world with different conceptions and that is how we perceive the world. Through meditation and slow movements, we start to cultivate insight, clear seeing. In a yoga practice we start to integrate and repeat things in order to find recognition.
In our practice we realign ourselves with the invisible forces that are a part of us. Then we are able to look inside and find more depth and clarity that we then bring towards integrating in our external world. Then we become more centered in ourselves and in the world.
My mantra has been about these four aspects. In life, in practice in meeting challenging situations:
Pause, Soften, Connect, Listen. Try them out and maybe they will influence you as much as they have me.
Ulrica Norberg is a highly respected yoga instructor and author of the new book Yinyoga, now available from Rockpool Publishing.
Stretch out with our yoga collection.