Exhale, forward fold…inhale, halfway lift…exhale, float back to plank,
chattarunga…inhale, up dog …exhale, downward facing dog…
That sounds like a vinyasa yoga class…
Practicing yoga by mirroring breath (prana) with poses (asana) increases muscular strength, breath control, flexibility and body awareness. Yoga leads to peacefulness, patience, kindness and compassion within the yoga practitioner.
There is a quieting of the chatter in the mind, an inner calm and a blissful relaxation that comes from a yoga practice. Muscles are engaged and stretched. The spine is elongated and the core is activated while the practitioner flows gracefully through the poses creating a vibrancy that emanates from within.
The word, Yoga is derived from Sanskrit, the ancient language of India and it means ‘to join.’ Yoga is the union of the body and mind. It is not only a workout. It is a way of life. Over 4,000 year’s worth of yogis can’t be wrong! If you practice yoga you know the power that is yoga.
But have you practiced Yin Yoga?
While a powerful and dynamic yoga class is considered yang because it works on the muscular half of the human body, a deeper tissue practice is called yin yoga. Yin yoga goes deep into connective tissues and fascia and even into the bones by having the practitioner come into a shape, finding the edge and allowing gravity to take over, then holding the shape for 3-5 or even 20 minutes. A soft, steady breath must be maintained, as well as allowing thoughts to come and go and not be held.
Yin yoga is not restorative yoga. It is passive and soft, yielding and allowing. It is challenging to hold postures for a long duration. Yin poses are slow, steady and gentle with a feeling of surrender while being held in complete stillness.
The practitioner begins to feel comfortable in the ‘uncomfortable-ness’ of the pose; therefore, building a tolerance for uncomfortable situations both on and off the yoga mat. Once you experience yin yoga, you will realize that you were only practicing half of yoga. There are yang poses in a yin yoga class and yin poses in a yang yoga class, it all depends on the duration of the hold in the pose and the release of tightness in the connective tissues. There are yin and yang qualities everywhere and in everything. However, there are some specific yin poses that release the fascia and don’t engage muscles as you can see in the photographs below.
Butterfly, camel, caterpillar, cat pulling its tail, child’s pose, deer, dragons, frog, saddle, shoelace, square, swan…are a few of the yin poses that successfully move chi throughout the body.
Yin releases the connective tissues, ligaments, tendons, fascia and joints by stressing vs. stretching them. The key is the stress, not the stretch. We want the tissues to become stronger, longer and thicker. This stress allows chi (energy) to flow freely through the body’s meridians (pathways) that flow through the connective tissues, while moistening the bones, joints and tissues. This connects the interior and the exterior of the body. This complete harmony of the inside and outside of the body keeps the chi (energy) from becoming deficient or stagnate. Committing to a daily yoga practice keeps the body healthy and youthful. Stagnate energy is the precursor for illness and body stiffness.
Practice yin poses and drink plenty of water daily.
In the morning, drink warm, lemon water to perfect the pH in the digestive track. Then, while the body is still waking, meditate and follow up with yin yoga. Yin yoga is most successfully practiced when the body is cool. No warming up is necessary, because you are not stretching muscles. Everything in the body is covered with fascia and connective tissue; otherwise, the organs, bones and muscles would literally fall apart.
The benefits of yin yoga are physical, energetic and mental/emotional…truly the fountain of youth!
Isn’t it time to add yin yoga to your regular yoga practice?