Yin yoga is a slow and deep practice that is known as a quiet practice or cool practice. A quiet practice because it’s a practice that gives you the opportunity to quiet the mind, and a cool practice because it’s a style of yoga that penetrates the deeper, cooler tissues. The systems affected by this practice are the chakras, the meridians, and joints and connective tissues.
What I’ve learned on my journey through almost two decades of teaching and practicing yin, is that it is going to make a difference regardless of my reasons for getting on the mat.
It’s a challenging practice in that there are less distractions available than there are in a yang practice, where you typically get to move around and sweat. Unless you’re blasting music or watching Netflix, (which keeps your external senses in charge) you’re in a quiet space and asked to be still (tapping into the internal senses).
Whether I’m stepping onto the mat to make time for myself to daydream, a more mindful approach, or something specific – chakra or joint specific, I know that I’m going to feel more centered and balanced by the time I reach the end of my practice.
I’ve given you my 3 approaches to practicing, below is an in-depth look into each one.
Approach #1: Daydreaming.
You read that correctly. Daydreaming. One of the most important reasons for me to get into a yin practice is to reconnect with the art of daydreaming. I know my schedule is usually jam-packed with work, family and getting everything done. It’s also a challenge for me to get on the mat and not be a teacher.
To simply be still and to allow the mind to wander is the most rewarding approach. It will inevitably lead to deep moments of healing, maybe an answer or a solution to a situation you’re dealing with will bubble up. A softening that comes with the breath of daydreaming. The ebb and flow of the inhale and exhale is like the waves lapping up on the shores of your holding, making its way into the body. Perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to fall into a sweet siesta.
With the emphasis on performance, scrolling, and productivity; the approach of giving the mind permission to wander will be the best part of your day, leaving you refreshed and ready to take it all on again.
How to: For the daydreaming approach, I recommend you have a plan going in.
- Create a sequence that you can float through, and keep it nearby so you can refer to it easily
- Have a journal and pens handy, so you can jot down the thoughts and ideas that surface. You won’t need to try to remember, and you can hop right back on to that floating cloud of the daydreaming journey
- Use a timer with a soft tone as a reminder to move on to the next shape. In this style of practice I recommend that you increase the time you stay in each pose as you go. The first one 2 minutes, and work your way slowly up to 7 or 8 minutes in the final pose.
Approach #2: Mindfulness.
Equally as powerful as daydreaming is the practice of mindfulness in a yin yoga practice. Mindfulness is a therapeutic method that includes the process of acknowledging and accepting the body and sensations throughout the practice. It’s about being completely present and engaged with the experience.
With a mindful approach to the practice, the simplest techniques will be the most effective. One of the most straightforward techniques I know is to connect with how the body moves as you breathe. In a yin practice, the breath remains soft and calm. Connecting with the movement of the body as you breathe, is a quick and effective way to bring you into the moment.
Without a check list of right or wrong – simply observing, no matter what shape you’re in. It will take you out of memories of how the shape used to feel, or the dreams of how you wished it felt. You’re right here, right now.
How to: For the mindfulness approach, I also recommend going in with a plan.
- Create a sequence with poses you feel confident in doing and want to progress in. Keep the list nearby so you can refer to it easily
- Be aware of how often the mind does what it’s designed to do – wander. Each time you notice, smile gently to yourself and bring the awareness back to the movement of the body with each breath.
- Use a timer so you can BE in the pose, without wondering how much longer you are staying in it. In this practice I recommend that you keep to shorter holds, 2-5 minutes each.
Approach #3: Something Specific.
The systems that are stimulated in a yin practice are the chakras, the meridians (channels of Chi) and the system of connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, fascia and bones/joints).
Through this specific approach, choose your system first. This can be a huge undertaking, but can be executed easily.
For chakras, meridians and fascia; simple whole body sequences that include forward folds, (feet close and wide), twists, and backbends, are going to get into these systems, you only need a general idea, the poses will do the rest.
For joints, ligaments, and tendons; focus on something specific. The spine (which will mean side bend, forward and backward and twists), or hips (which can mean wide leg poses, etc.) This will help you in creating your pose list to emphasis these parts.
How to: For the specific system approach, you definitely want to go in with a plan.
- Create a sequence based on the system you’d like to connect with. Simple and straightforward poses will help keep you on track. Keep it close so you can refer to it, as well as any other aides that help to keep you connected with the system. Maybe images of chakras, or the purpose of the meridians, or you write down some affirmations that will support your desired outcome.
- Breathe into the areas you’re focusing on. A calm, directed breath.
- Use a timer. In this approach I like to keep it simple. 5 minutes per pose.
Regardless of why you practice, the body, mind and soul will receive the benefits of this time you’ve created for YOU. The feeling of balance and spaciousness will be the reward.
For more in-depth information into these systems and the practice of yin yoga, please check out my newly published book titled ‘The Essential Guide to Yin Yoga’. Available now on my website (follow the previous link)
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