What is Yin Yoga?
Updated: Apr 26
A personal perspective (not an in-depth analysis of what Yin Yoga is, no definition, just my personal experience).
Initially I found Yin Yoga challenging (well, I still find it challenging, but after some years of practice I can see its beauty and its benefits) – challenging in many different ways.
On a physical level I found it very demanding to hold a posture for a prolonged period (3 minutes have never felt that long!). The intensity of physical sensations over this long time was very hard to deal with.
On a psychological level, I mostly noticed the mental resistance that was building up the longer I was in a posture. The inner voice telling me to move, to come out, to just do something about the physical sensations.
And this is where I started to really appreciate my Yin practice. It really helps me to become aware of how the mind works. How – through the eyes of the mind – a situation is either deemed ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘enjoyable’ or ‘not enjoyable’. We seek pleasure and want more of it. If we encounter a situation that the mind labels as unpleasant, our habitual reaction is resistance. Resistance creates suffering.
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
I am not saying that Yin Yoga is about experiencing pain. Definitely not. If you are ever experiencing pain (as in sharp shooting pain, tingling or numbness), get out of the posture straight away. Not all postures work for everyone. We all have different bodies with varying needs. What I´m referring to in Yin Yoga is this zone of discomfort we want to experience when holding a posture. The discomfort that comes with long, gentle pressure which our Yin tissues (tendons, ligaments, bones) require to become stronger. Click here if you want to read up on the physiology of Yin Yoga.
When you enter a posture, have found your edge and then settle into stillness, try to be fully present. To a.) observe your physical sensations to know (on the level of experience) whether to move deeper, to come out or just remain where you are; and b.) notice what your mind is doing.
Sometimes, when our body is becoming still, our breath is becoming more subtle, our mind follows along and becomes very calm and clear. Sometimes, the exact opposite is the case (especially during my initial experiences with Yin Yoga, and occasionally still today), the mind becomes very active. It either completely drifts off, creates a story to take you away from the current situation (the physical discomfort that you are experiencing), I would call this strategy “avoidance”; or the inner voice comments on the current situation (this could be in a nice way “you can do it, not much longer” or in a more ugly way “get out of the pose, NOW!”), I would call this mind game “resistance”.
Whatever is happening in your mind – calmness – avoidance – resistance – or whatever else you are experiencing – it’s all perfectly fine and normal. I love the physical benefits of Yin Yoga, the balance it gives me to my Yang practice, but what I appreciate the most is that it has become a way for me to get to know my mind – the workings of my mind.
What are you experiences?