Fifteen years ago and Yin yoga was an unknown form. A few might have heard of it and there were classes and workshops in America – but that was that. Nowadays it is becoming increasingly popular: there are several books about the practice and in London there are more than 150 weekly yin yoga classes plus frequent workshops, trainings and intensives. Many teachers use a Yin element in retreats and in regular classes. Yin is becoming in…
But this does not mean that it is ‘new’ – for as long as people have been practicing yoga/mindful movement/transformative enquiry, there have been times of stillness and postures of staying. This is one of the ways we can describe yin yoga: stillness and staying. In this world of speed where the senses are intensely stimulated, in our culture of distractions and instant gratification, what we often most deeply require is…slowing down. This is a society out of balance and there is a real need for some ‘yin’ to assist sustaining and ensure sustainability.
The term ‘yin’ comes from a Chinese philosophy where everything is seen as being composed of these two elements – yin and yang – which are continually in relationship with each other. Yang is outer, faster, warmer, ruling – while yin is inner, slower, cooler, revering. The key is about being balanced: so we are less easily thrown, these high winds of life that we all experience last less long, we are grounding as much as we are transforming.
Yoga as commonly practiced in the west is active, dynamic, energetic – it requires muscular engagement and poses are rarely held for more than thirty seconds.
I have practiced ashtanga yoga for more than twenty years and I deeply appreciate its many benefits. I have also been practicing Yin yoga since 2001 and I greatly value the qualities – stillness, staying, slowing down – that this has bought into my life. Too often we are trying too soon to do too much: we are like those moorhens on the pond of life – seemingly serene above the surface yet underneath frantically paddling desperately to stay afloat. Beneath our busy ways of living there can be oceans of exhaustion.
Yin yoga could perhaps help to readjust this unbalanced way of being. Sure, it is great to stretch and sweat in a yoga class – but what about softening, where there might be more space to be slowing down, where there might be more space to dive deeply within this being. In practicing this way – where postures are regularly held for five minutes, where there is an emphasis of relaxing the body into a stretch, where the focus is on feeling – there can be possibilities to go deeper into this being.
There is great potential in this practice for a rebalancing of this being: from helping us to move more towards meditation to stretching out that stiffness that is so common around the centre of body, from quietening the brain to encouraging a deeper awareness of body.
Yin is becoming in….
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