To me, yoga was the act of turning oneself into a painful pretzel. It was for the beautiful, thin, young, cool people. It was a world I envied and gazed at from afar. I would notice there were people of all ages and they all looked healthy and young no matter how old they actually were. Their bodies seemed to breathe aliveness out of every poor. They were, in short, an unobtainable goal. I would try a class every now and then. I loved the ones with a live harp but I never stuck with it long enough to fall in love with it or get any tangible results. I always felt awkward and lacking.
My absolute favorite posture was always savasana at the end of the practice which is “corpse pose” where I was lying flat on the ground with my eyes closed (usually falling asleep). Now that was an exercise I could get behind! So when I discovered “Yin Yoga” or restorative yoga, I was amazed.
What is Yin Yoga vs. Yang Yoga?
The difference between the basic styles of yoga is that “Yang” yoga is the more typical contemporary power yoga which targets the muscles and “Yin” Yoga targets the connective tissues, such as the ligaments, bones, and even the joints of the body that normally are not exercised very much in a more active style of asana practice. The yin poses also concentrate on the fascia which is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs.
My teacher used the visual of an orange to explain this. She said, “Imagine the sticky white stuff between the fruit and the peel of an orange. That’s the part we are working on.”
The practice of Yin Yoga is slower, and mostly done in soft lighting on the mat and/or legs up the wall. It pays particular attention to breathing and the form. The poses are held from 1-5 minutes for each side. The only hard part of yin yoga is having patience.
I had to have patience with my body and my mind. To not judge my practice. At first I would be stiff and my mind would wander off to making dinner or the text I forgot to send or the traffic I could hear out on the street. I would be angry that I had let my body get so stiff and blocked. That the injuries I had from past events were coming back to haunt me with each pose.
The teachers, the beautiful, insightful, kind, loving, amazing yoga teachers who are certainly not there for the millions they make per class, but for the love of the practice and the love of sharing that with others, would ask us to practice non-judgement. To gently notice if we are wandering and if so, come back with kindness. To take our bodies to our outer limits, not someone else’s, to breathe into and drop down into our bodies. To be present and allow. What a gift. Sounds like a formula for living life on or off the mat.
My body and my mind are changing. I am able to sink deeper into each pose without judgement. I stay more focused and present than ever before and I incorporate my own inner meditation into each practice. When I am done with a Yin Yoga class, I feel energized yet relaxed. I feel confident and competent. I know without a doubt that I have nourished my body with movement and breath.
If you are intrigued by this, don’t say, “Someday I will try that.” Someday is not a day of the week. Jump in, come play, the water is warm!