Do you find it hard to wind down and calm your mind after a busy day? Are you always on the go or a workaholic? If yes, then practising Yin Yoga could significantly improve the health of your mind, body and soul. Beautiful Because caught up with Yin Yoga instructor Sarah Reeves, who practised with guru Sarah Powers in Indonesia and now teaches at Coogee Titans Gym, to find out more...
Yin Yoga’s basis is in the Chinese medicine theories of the body’s energy systems – Chi, Jing or traditional yoga Prana. It is about cleansing the channels of energy flow throughout the body. The principle is to relax as much as possible when creating a pose, with no muscle effort. It’s not about trying to look good or bring the pose into full completion, it’s more a matter of knowing where your body wants to go, being okay with it and then just letting gravity take its course. The joints need to relax while sitting in a Yin pose, so you let your body hang and surrender into it.
Yin Yoga is a lot slower than a Hatha or Vinyasa yoga class, with poses generally lasting 3 to 5 minutes or longer. The focus is not so much about the muscles, but the ligaments around the joints to improve tissue health on a deeper level. In holding a gentle pose for a longer period of time, the target area (the fascia [tissues] supporting the joints) receives an appropriate degree of stress allowing these connective tissues to become long, lean and clean. This ultimately enhances energy flow through the body. The lengthiest poses tend to be seated, so the stress is put on the fascias. Our fascias respond to long, steady pressure rather than a repetitive type of action like the muscles.
There are so many health benefits for inner and outer body and they can't all be measured. Yin is a meditative kind of practice, so great for those who find it hard to switch off as, when concentrating during practice, you can learn. It may feel awkward at first, but with more practice and more time, it will become easier on the body.
The sequences can focus on a certain body area or organ, such as the kidneys, and there are certain poses that activate the energy channels linked with that organ. It’s all interlinked in terms of energy; the tangible ligaments themselves are connected to the pose. Yin Yoga strengthens the ligaments around the joints and, when they are strengthened they are cleansed so blockages are removed and energy can flow through. It can be easy for some people, harder for others, or both in any one practice.
In contrast, people generally attracted to the Yang styles of yoga – your higher energy such as Vinyasa – would probably benefit more from practicing Yin (as it makes them slow down and calm down) whereas those attracted to Yin (because it is so relaxing and you don’t have to move much) would benefit more from the Yang styles!
If you can commit to once a week that’s great. I often tell people to take poses home as a home practice because the more you practice the easier it gets. A healthy mind and body is what should be the aim for everyone. It is all about balance. Sometimes after a stressful day, a Yin practice is what you need – sometimes it's a Yang practice.
Any type of practice, 3 or 4 times a week is ideal. I like to mix it up, so one day I may do a walk, the next day a Yin practice, the next tennis, the next a Yang practice; so long as you aim to do 4 activities in a week that’s good because your body needs a couple of rest days.
If your whole body is in a good state of health – it will reflect in your skin, hair, nails and eyes. With a Yin practice you are getting that great concept of energy flow targeting your organs and thus keeping them healthy. A healthy body can result in a good attitude to life, people and yourself – which is the most important part for me, making you more beautiful to yourself and the world around you. What's more, regular exercise can flush out toxins keeping your skin clear.
Legs are outstretched on the ground, your back is upright and you’ve allowed your upper body to fold over your legs. In a Yin style, there is less emphasis on having your legs totally straight and muscles activated, instead you relax your legs to the point your knees may pop up slightly (since it takes the energy off the back of the legs and places the emphasis more on the lower back). The back is not forcing itself forward, rather it is allowed to round, so it’s taking that effort out.
You lay down on your back and allow your knees to fall to one side,but hold it for 3 or 5 minutes rather than 30 seconds (as you would in a Yang style class). The longer you hold the position, the more your body releases into it, and the more juicy it begins to feel.
This is a common yoga pose where you have your front shin parallel with the front of the matt and your back leg stretched out, all the way behind the body. It is almost a split’s type action with your legs, but going across your body. It can feel really tight on the hips, glutes and piriformis. It’s a beautiful pose that can be really hard to hold for a long period of time.
It’s doing something good for your body, on so many levels – mind, body and soul. One of the beautiful things about Yin Yoga is if you can recognise the discomfort in a pose but still sit with it, you can take that skill out into life when facing the discomforts that every day brings, be okay with them and tolerate them. So, rather than running away from a point of discomfort you are working through it.
By Nina Weston