Yoga » Yin Yoga

Yin and Yang

Yin is a Chinese word. Yin and yang are relative terms; they describe the two facets of existence. Like two sides of the coin, yin cannot exist without yang, nor yang without yin. They complement eachother. Since existence is never static, what is yin and what is yang are always changing. There is no absolute yin or absolute yang. A context is always required. Yin is retiring. Yang is acting. The Dao is the balance between the two.

In the Eastern world of yogis of India and the alchemical Daoists of China, the need of balance is well known and understood. In the West, when we do not use the terms yin and yang, the need to pay attention and balance our opposing natures has been realized by many astute observers of our psychological landscape. We don't think in these terms, our lifestyles rarely reflect the need for balance. We can be yang-like for only so long before crashing. We can be yin-like for only so long before stagnating. We need balance in all things.

Yin Yoga is specifically designed to exercise the ligaments and to regain space and strength in the joints.

When we are youngsters, we don't need to work on gaining more mobility because we are already so yang-like, we need to work on our muscles and gaining strength. This is a yang time of life so we need yang forms of exercise. Somewhere around our mid-twenties to mid-thirties we reach the optimal balance between yin and yang, between mobility and stability. But the arc of aging must be fallowed: we continue to become more yin-like as we age, untill eventually we end up completely rigid. As we get older, as we get more yin-like, we need a yin form of exercise to keep us mobile. Many forms of yoga are dynamic, active practices designed to work the "yang" tissues like muscles. Yin yoga allows us to work with "yin" tissues of our ligaments, joints, deep facial networks, and even our bones.

Yin Yoga as a platform of meditation.

We do not use the body to get into the pose, we use the pose to get into the body. How we practice is much more important than what we practice. Too often, yoga students force themselves into contorted positions with no regards for whether what they are doing is helping them or hurting them. Their egos are in control, and the ego wants to look good in front of others. Yoga was never a competitive sport: it is an inward practice designed to build awareness, non-attatchment, equanimity, and contentment. Practiced correctly, yoga can provide all the physiological benefits while offering the deep inner calm and insights treasured by the yogis of old. We simply have to practice mindfully, with attention and intention. Above all, practice in a relaxed manner. Do the best you can, and just be present what arises.

The first principle of Yin yoga is this: every time you come into a pose, go only to the point where you feel a significant resistance in the body. After thirty seconds or a minute, usually the body releases and greater depth is possible, but not always. Yoga is a dance, not a wrestling match. Listen to the body and respect its requests. When we play our edges we come to the point of significant resistance. This will entail some discomfort. Yin yoga is not meant to be comfortable; it will take you well out side your comfort zone.

The second principle is stillness. Once we have found the edge, we settle into the pose. We wait without moving. This is our resolution, our commitment. The body becomes as still as a great mountain, unaffected by the winds and dramas swirling around it. Clouds come and go, rains pelt and snows melt, but the mountain remains. Stillness in the body leads the quieting of the breath. A calm breath is regular and even, slow and deep, natural and unforced. Soft ujjayi breathing is perfectly okay. Once the breath has become quiet, the deepest stillness arises. 

Stillness of the Mind. To still the mind, the breath must be calm. To calm the breath, the body must be still. When these conditions have been met, deep awareness is possible. This state can be achived only by commitment and dedication. Commit to stillness and allow whatever arises to be just what it is.