6 Reasons to Make Time for Yin Yoga in 2019
by Coach Paige
With 2019 getting started many people have already been setting goals and creating their new years resolutions. There are a bunch of memes floating around the interwebs about how busy the gyms are this time of year with so many bringing health and wellness to the forefront of their minds. In addition to the typical eat healthier or exercise more people are choosing to invest more time in self-care. SELF-CARE… What is that?
Self-care is practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness. This may be foreign to some in periods of stress, but more science is pointing towards the idea that stress is killing us! Yin yoga is an anti-stress practice and therefor is all about SELF-CARE.
The yin compliments your typical gym-goer-busy-AF yang energy and is essential to recharge and give back to your body, mind, and spirit. Yin is an introspective movement practice that offers a chance to turn inward and nurture the calm, quiet center that is innate in all of us. It is a practice in stillness, patience, and non-reactivity. Through yin yoga we become adept at self-care. We become better listeners with the practice of tuning in; we become wiser as we get to know ourselves from the inside out; and we become more curious about the world through the exploration of our own inner worlds.
Not convinced? Dig deeper into 7 therapeutic benefits I’ve encountered both with my clients and through my own practice of this form of medicine.
- The yin practice forces us to slow down.
I don’t know how many times I have had to tell my clients to slow down when doing their strength training. Unlike, flowy faster paced vinyasa type classes. Yin postures are long holds (up to 5 minutes) that offer a chance to marinate in stillness. This allows us to connect to respiratory and circulatory functions, internal organs, and sensations within the muscles and joints. This heightened awareness of the physiological processes of the body ultimately moves us closer to santosha, or contentment. When you allow yourself to stay present and experience the near-imperceptible shifts that occur while holding a yin posture, time opens up. Deadlines, commitments, pressing matters, and to-do lists fade to the background, leaving tremendous space for rest and renewal.
- Yin yoga can help us to build more mental resiliency.
Since yin postures are longer holds this can be physically uncomfortable for some, or it can provoke anxiety. Some people meet this discomfort with resistance or an avoidance of doing the position. It is natural for humans to want to run away from feeling negative feelings. However, when the approach is met with tenderness, the body acclimates. We don’t push ourselves into physical postures, but rather gently and slowly move so we can be supported. A teacher’s role lies in supporting the student through using their breath to calm the nervous system and a common theme I use is surrender. Polite reminding students to let go of the barrier or move around it in order to reap the benefits that lie on the other side. Eventually, this ability to adapt to the ups and downs of life and to manage change with grace can lessen our predisposition to stress.
- Through breath we tap into the nervous system for a calmer state of being.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a powerful way to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. Some of the benefits of activating the parasympathetic nervous system include reduced mental stress, reduced mental tension, lower blood pressure, better sleep, better digestion, higher immune function, good hormone production, etc. Sadly many of us don’t do it often enough. Instead, we spend our days locked in sympathetic overdrive, constantly being pulled from one overly important deadline to another. Even your “crossfit-style-heavy-hitting-high-heart rate-max-internval-cardio training is keeping you in this sympathetic state! Breathing or better yet panting and gasping for air with your mouth hanging open will lead to higher amounts of toxins in the body or a higher demand for waste removal. The nasal breathing done in class can cultivate a healthier nervous system. It’s as if the whole body takes a prolonged sigh. As you move deeper into your yin practice, the breath and heart rate slow down more, drawing you deeper and deeper into this relaxation, mode. This is where the internal organs get a chance to catch up on their to-do list (digest, eliminate toxins, heal, repair) which is exactly what happens when you sleep. Better breathing leads to lower stress levels.
- This style of yoga is great for restoring range of motion in your joints.
Perhaps some of the most obvious reasons people practice any modality of yoga is for the flexibility benefits. Past injury, habitual posture in daily life, or aging can bind connective tissues together, creating so-called adhesions and restricting movement between the sliding surfaces of the muscles. Like a traffic jam, adhesions block the flow of nutrients and energy through the body, causing pain and limiting mobility. Your body may be giving you signs that hitting the weights or a fast paced vinyasa flow class isn’t optimal for your body today. Yin yoga’s longer holds of the postures opens the joint capsule and lengthening the fascia helps break up adhesions that can be looked in deeper layers. Application of some mild stress to joints and connective tissues can increase their range of motion in a non-catabolic way.
- The stillness of a yin practice primes us for meditation.
Meditation is not necessarily something you have to find; sometimes it finds you. Meditation is not about emptying your brain of all thoughts but more about a one pointed focus on becoming present in the moment. In the stillness of the postures we find an ability to concentrate and remain aware of your experience. The physical act of stillness allows us to tap into different brain wave lengths. Many racing thoughts and distractions start to melt and we can focus on the signs, signals, and downloads we are receiving during our stillness.
- Yin yoga cultivates balance.
The two tattoos I have on my forearm are a constant reminder that life is a balancing act. If you look at the yin/yang symbol you will see that the white and black forms intertwine with one another and yet are equal. Many of us live very active, constantly going or yang lifestyles and leave little or no time to foster the quiet, introspective side. Over time this can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining and again leads to unhappy unhealthy cells. Through the yin practice we can restore equilibrium and feel whole.
To practice yin is to relinquish control—such a novel and therapeutic concept in our modern-day lives. On the surface, the yin practice might appear uneventful. But if you are able to tune in, you will encounter some pretty fascinating events occurring in the layers beneath the skin.
I believe that we all need to value the relaxation response or bodies naturally crave if we are to achieve deep inner health Please join me on Jan 31st at 645pm for a special YIN and Sound healing class