I fell in love with Yin Yoga at first stretch. I fondly remember the mornings many years ago when Kamala and I would meet at her old studio to practice this new-to-us style of yoga. We would take turns picking the poses and keeping track of the time. Other than communicating when it was time to move to the next pose, we practiced in companionable silence. I felt that I was learning a whole new way of communing with my body. I still feel this way when I practice Yin Yoga — like deep eternal secrets are slowly being revealed as I immerse myself in the stretch. It’s a magical way to practice.
Yin Yoga is unique among the styles of yoga I have had the pleasure to practice and explore. It’s defined by long held poses (anywhere from one to eight minutes) held in a passive manner. I encourage the creative use of props such as bolsters, blocks, and blankets in my classes to facilitate the release of the body to gravity. Unlike the more active styles of yoga which affect the muscles, Yin Yoga targets the connective tissues of the body, primarily fascia. Fascia can be understood as a great web of collagen fibers that run through and around your muscles, bones, blood vessels, nerves, and organs. Fascia can tighten through injury, disuse, or just plain living. Yin Yoga is an excellent way to allow the fascia to release slowly over time. If you have ever tried to stretch your muscles through traditional stretching you may wonder why they always return to their tightened state. The answer may be that although you are stretching the muscles, the fascia that sheaths those muscles is not being stretched and is thus restricting your muscles. Three to five minutes in a passive relaxed stretch is the recommended time required to affect the fascia. This makes Yin Yoga an excellent physical complement to your regular yoga practice and daily activities.
Aside from Yin Yoga’s beneficial physical benefits, the time spent in each position allows for greater mindfulness, awareness, and relaxation. Once positioning yourself in a suitable stretch you can spend your time observing, letting go, breathing, and experiencing the effects of allowing your fascia to release. This opens up the pathways of communication between the body and the mind. You need never be bored again once these pathways begin to open. Every moment holds a depth of richness to explore. The stillness of the practice allows your nervous system to unwind. The practice is an oasis for the mind as well as the body. One student of mine says she feels like a limp noodle after class. After a mere 75 minutes, her body and mind are deeply relaxed.
It’s a pleasure for me to share this practice of Yin Yoga at Purple Lotus Yoga. I have been teaching this class for five years and never tire of watching people catch on to the depth of physical and mental well-being it offers. The benefits are both instantaneous and cumulative. The pure enjoyment people feel after a single class speaks louder than any mental knowledge of its benefits.