I’m the kind of person who preferred a fast-paced intense workout and hot power yoga class. Sweating it out, filled with challenging sequences and stretches, empowered beyond belief. Still do, make no mistake. Practicing this kind of “Yang Yoga” daily, I noticed my energy levels fluctuating. Some days I’d feel overly energized and could not sleep for hours after reaching home – basically bouncing off the walls! Other days I was tired and drained. I was subconsciously seeking balance. Persuaded by my ever-nagging friend, I obliged and took my first Yin yoga class to see what all the fuss was about. Up until then, I presumed Yin Yoga was more for beginners or pensioners. This is where the trouble started. I had no idea what to expect but I thought the name “Yin” suggested a softer practice.
The room was full of people of all ages, sizes and backgrounds. With a smug face, I set up in the front of the room next to the teacher, thinking – “I so got this” The instructor was so incredibly calm and patient. And it brought a sweet-tempered Zenness to the space. The new yoga knowledge he introduced me to was fascinating. Chakras, Meridian Lines, Karmic seeds and Fascia were all a breath of fresh air. After a short meditation, he gently guided us into our first pose: a seated position with one leg bent in front while the other stretched backwards. Royal Swan. I thought, “okay, I recognized this pose from a different Sandskrit name and I feel the target area, so it’s cool!” He then asked us to fold forward bringing our bodyweight over the bent leg into Sleeping Swan and I thought “Hello I.T Band and Glutes!!!” And then he said remain here focusing on the breath in and out through the nostrils. We will be here for the next 5 minutes, on each side.
“WHAT??” I must have had the most outraged look on my face, as he giggled and coaxed us further into the posture towards our edge. He was TOTALLY SERIOUS! I struggled back down with my muscles squealing at me, preparing for what was going to be a very interesting learning curve.
Adho Mukha Kapotasana (pigeon pose as they call it for short in Yang Yoga) had never previously been a challenge to me, and for the first minute or so, it was fine. Two minutes in and I started noticing an old sciatic injury starting to moan. The last minute seemed to last a lifetime. The level of discomfort was notable and while there was no pain as such, I kept thinking, ” When are we going to change poses? ” or ” have we not been in this posture for 5 minutes already? “ and then ” get me out of this posture, NOW! “
My preconceptions of having an easy, restorative, gentle practice were soon diminished after the first pose.
Then came the DRAGON!
A grueling pose with each variation becoming more challenging the deeper we got. This pose is as dreaded as the mythical creature it is named after.
See, during these long holds, when you settle this deep into a posture (particularly a hip opener), a few things may happen…
You have no choice but to observe the body and listen to the monkey mind. Eventually you get uncomfortable the longer you’re in it, so my body would be the first one to want to give up. My muscles would start to tense and I’d have to consciously tell my body to relax. “This isn’t soooo bad, I’m ok, just breathe! It’s only YOGA!”
A few seconds later, my mind would then kick in. “What is this? NO! I can’t sit still, I can’t stop thinking, change something, adjust the props, MOVE, this is ridiculous, it’s way too uncomfortable. I’ll never last the full five minutes.” I started to wonder how airy-fairy the teacher really was, to have forgotten about us and be lost in his own world. I felt my body heat start to rise. My teeth begin to grind. I started to get frustrated. Soon I began imagining a Games of Throne battle scene in my mind. Then out of nowhere, I remembered a deeply buried memory that came up to my conscious mind that I had clearly stored away with the cobwebs. I got sad. I even shed a tear. Slowly I got bored thinking “Right, time to get out of this torture chamber!” Then I started to laugh. “I must be a masochist who enjoys inflicting pain on myself “ Soon I resorted back into wanting to kick the smiling peaceful face looking back at me, once I had the feeling back in my legs that was.
Just as I thought the suffering of my emotional roller coaster ride was over he maneuvered us deeper into FIRE BLAZING DRAGON.
I wont even go there…the name speaks for itself!
Welcome to Yin Yoga… as in, the other side of Yang.
The poses that followed offered more or less the same levels of discomfort, and it always seemed to be around that two-minute-thirty-second mark that my body would decide it had had enough. It was a constant pull between fight or flight mode. Of course, there was no option to end the poses early. As I peeped around the room everybody was as quiet as a mouse and surprisingly looking like they were enjoying the experience.
And then the penny dropped… I soon realized this scenario was MY LIFE. When I experience discomfort on any level—physical, mental, or emotional, I am out of my comfort zone. Feeling uncomfortable and not in control, my body starts to react and complain. Soon my mind jumps in and tries to talk my way out of the situation. I’m tired, I’m stressed, I can’t do this, or this isn’t for me. Those thoughts slowly manifest and I start to believe them, as I plan my escape route. Then finally my mood reflects disappointment by feeling irritated, grumpy, and annoyed at myself. It was like giving up chocolate that one year – A constant battle! A battle I was fighting against myself. Body vs. mind.
It took a few classes before I was able to really appreciate and enjoy the relaxed pace of Yin. I continued to accept the challenge: To get comfortable in the uncomfortable. Slowing my mind down and being guided deeper into my practice. And eventually, it paid off! Yin Yoga brings up a great deal of emotions and allows a truly perfect way to find space to acknowledge our thoughts. Not hanging onto them but rather letting them pass. Letting go of whatever doesn’t serve us. Did I get emotional during class? Absolutely. But I learned that it’s undoubtedly OK. That’s probably why it’s known as the more intuitive side of yoga bridging the gap between asana’s and meditation. When we train the body to become still, we intern train the mind — finding our way home to inner peace. Yin helps us slowly build absolute self-belief and faith in how wonderful we can be, how strong we really are, each and every day and how to take that into the real world! Eventually your practice becomes soothing and healing. A beautiful spiritual lesson! There is something so deep and profound about Yin that will tap into a part of you, in a way only unique to Yin. This practice is a soulful journey for those who may have disconnected from the mind/body/soul connection to reawaken themselves in a gentle, compassionate, loving way. Practicing Yin is like thanking yourself for being so awesome! And by having both a Yin and Yang yoga practice… you are creating a perfect balance within your energy systems. The best of both worlds!
As a Yangster, take time to treat your inner self well, join the Yinsters!
Namaste Love and Light