After my injury I have been trying to look for gentle classes and this brought me to my second class at Taksu Yoga in Ubud, Bali; a Yin yoga class. This class was a world apart from the Iyengar class at the Yoga barn.
I have dabbled a few times in Yin yoga so I knew what to expect. Yin is a very slow practice where you adopt a posture, release as much as possible and remain in it for 2 minutes and upwards depending on your experience in Yin yoga, and your flexibility.
The teacher was the same as my previous Gentle yoga class, so it was nice to see a familiar face.
We started the practice with some gentle movements – a nice vinyasa from child and into upward hero, with arms in goddess, thumbs tucked into palms. We stretched using a nice variation of a seated cat-cow, with arms crossed and grabbing each knee to bring a deep shoulder stretch into the posture as well as a chest stretch and back curl.
Our first Yin posture was something that I am going to call threading the child needle! We got into a wide child, but crossed one arm under the under, palm up, face to one side, with the facing arm wrapped around the waist. Like a thread the needle but with bum on the floor and less intense shoulder stretch. We stayed here for a good 3-4 minutes, and then did the other side.
Yin yoga aims to help you really soften and stretch the fascia – the collagenic connective tissue that wraps throughout out whole body, binding our muscles and organs, veins and nerves in place. It is a recently discovered part of the anatomy and the studies in this area are in their infancy but growing quickly.
The idea in a pose is to get to a comfortable place, and then fully relax all muscles – from the face to the toes. This passive release into the posture gives a very deep stretch and far from being an easy cop-out class, it can be very challenging, particularly if you have injuries of issues.
By the end of the first pose my feet were on fire and I couldn’t feel them at all! We gently emerged to lay on our stomaches which my feet and lower legs went crazy with pins and needles. I didn’t fight the sensation though, but tried to observe it as best I could.
Next we did caterpillar. This is akin to a seated forward fold (the majority of Yin postures are seated or laying down), but rather lift the chest and reach the chin to the feet, rather you lean forwards with an open chest, and as soon as you find the resistance you curl the lower and upper back, neck and head, rest the hands by the legs and let your upper body hang.
Yin yoga is also meant to be a deeply meditative practice. We usually use challenging postures, and a mixture of them in order to distract our minds from all the shit we bring onto the mat from our daily lives. With Yin however, we are opening time and space into the posture on the mat. And so we need to reign in our mind, and constantly use the breath to anchor the mind, to bring the attention back to the body.
The teacher of this class, Astri, also incorporated Chinese philosophy into the sequence and talked about the 12 meridians of energy that run from head to foot, connecting the organs of the body. As we adopted the posture and released further she talked about the path of the meridian that we were hoping to stimulate and unblock with the posture, giving and additional element of focus to the practice.
The third posture was butterfly, or cobbler pose, again with a rounded back and bent head, but my back by this point was feeling too stretched so we adapted it into a reclined butterfly with a belt around the waist and feet, so I could lay my back and allow the muscles to soften without supporting the body.
Finally, we finished with a reclined gentle twist – laying on the back, knees bent and rolled to one side, hands interlaced behind the head and looking the opposite way tot he knees – a familiar posture and a wonderful way to wind up any class.
Surprisingly you don’t get bored in a Yin yoga class despite only doing 4 or 5 postures in 90 minutes. Rather you find the constant reminder to quiet the mind starts to work and your thoughts dull and it becomes easier to bring your focus into the room, into your body and into the breath, Of course, it will depend on how challenging you find the posture – if something is screaming at you then it takes a lot of attention!
Yin yoga is about finding the balance between a passive stretch, a deep release, and comfort in the body. We all have places that hold tension, the four main ones being the stomach, the shoulders, the jaw and the brow, and Yin yoga aims to try to allow these all to let go.
At the end of a short relaxation, on the one hand you feel deeply relaxed and quiet, but also rejuvenated, and you walk out with a surge of energy for the rest of the day.
It was a fantastic class and interesting to hear Astri’s comments about the way we marry our mind and body through yoga – all a great strategy to distract you from the fact you are in a pose for so long!
It is not something I would do every day, but it certainly is a very great way to deepen your practice, and I found the meditative side wonderful as I struggle with traditional meditation and really enjoy the conduit of postures to quieten the mind.