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What Is Yin Yoga – And Why It Matters

Written by: Ciara Jean Roberts, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

For all the yang in the world, we need the softer yin to balance. To harmonise. To experience viscerally, our inner equipose.

woman lying on the floor practicing yoga.

A sojourn to an old converted olive farm in Andalucia in 2012, was my first entry point into a formal yoga teacher training (YTT). As a woman then in my 30s, a healthy functioning kidney transplant and a love of dance, it was a vinyasa YTT that called.


Vinyasa is flowing, dynamic, graceful, and strengthening for the ropey muscles. Very yang. Marrying the inhale and exhale with the movements.


Returning from the immersion, including yogic philosophy, learning Sanskrit to infuse the names of the poses into teaching, alongside nerve-wracking moments of demonstrating our teaching style, it was a relief to have concurrently discovered yin yoga.


This is counter culture.


It’s helpful to understand the key pillars of a yin yoga practise:


1. Duration – marinating in a pose for a length of time – between 3-8 minutes, maybe more.


2. All the poses are floor based and passive – helping to tune more into our relationship with gravity, one of the laws of physics. Passivity is the yin energy. Moon is yin. Nighttime is yin.


3. Tracking sensation – feelings and emotions come after sensation. We are highly sensory beings with evolved and intricate nervous systems. In a world that increasingly favours disembodiment, cultivating a relationship with the actual signs and signals in the body, opens us up to somatic truth.


As brilliant anatomist Gil Hedley says, ‘body as expression of sub-conscious mind’.


For all the talk therapy in the world, we need body practises that bring us home to the centrally integrating channel ‒ the home and hearth within. Does this ring true for you, I wonder?


Sun activates and lights up, Moon calms and soothes. Of course it’s not meant simplistically as being human is a complex experience. Yet after practising and teaching yin yoga for now over 10 years, I know and feel its healing capacity.


There are so many layers to move through. Our tension patterns and habits provide rich material for self enquiry. Is the tight jaw representing communication shutdown. Are the constant cold and runny nose mirroring something in our lives, be it a relationship or work situation, dampening down our immunity. Is the pelvic pain a result of stuck trauma in this part of the body.


These are vast and kaleidoscopic enquiries. Yin yoga is like the soothing balm of permission. It takes practise. As with anything in life, its effects are cumulative. We practise being still and bearing witness to what arises from the great within.


It allows a quieter space for sensations to be witnessed. We might often feel enslaved or indeed at the mercy of our emotions. We are not. One of the world’s top-cited scientists, Lisa Feldman Barrett in her Ted talk, ‘You aren’t at the mercy of your emotion, your brain makes them’, expands more on how we are not our emotions.


The rising field of somatic psychology woven with ancient perennial wisdoms, provide a rich landscape to truly Know Thyself. We can be both scientists and shamanic alchemists.


Yin yoga is different to restorative yoga. It is helping us cultivate compassion and to ultimately desensitise pain points. The Daoist elements and meridians are woven into this type of yoga. To call it a type though feels limiting. Yet, we cannot know freedom, if we have not experienced limitations. We work with the ‘tension of change’. We need to feel what’s stuck, what’s releasing so we can also, sometimes paradoxically, hold joy, hope and simplicity at the same time.


Our weblike matrix of connective tissue ‒ fascia gets the chance to be nurtured. So much gets pushed down, denied, avoided, repressed. We can reach into our very bones.


We need safe spaces to integrate the pain and suffering.


It’s never ‘either/or’. It’s always both and more.


Contraindications as with any body/mind practise exist. Depending on your unique circumstances, it might be best to wait for a time for healing post surgery for example. Or to certainly make your teacher aware of any connective tissue situations. Any heightened state of panic percolating in the sympathetic fibres of your body, needs to feel safe. So a one-to-one session with a trusted teacher might feel more resonant.


Why does it matter we open up to the slower yin energies?


Safety first. Safety matters. Feeling safe to be who we truly are. Developing true self-awareness. Not an idea of it. An embodied, felt a sense of it. Letting the body lead.


When we feel safe and can continually practise returning to our own sense of inner sovereignty, sanctuary and worthiness, this feeds the whole.


In the past 10 years, yin yoga is more prevalent and ‘on the menu’ at various gyms and yoga studios. It’s key to find a teacher who understands its depths and has the art and skill to hold a safe space for you. Stuff comes up. We’re dealing with the language of the body.


You are warmly welcome to contact me for questions on the above. I can also be found on zoom every Wednesday night, (UK time 8.15 pm) guiding people through an hour of yin – perhaps I’ll see you there soon…


A lyric that caught my ear recently by 070 Shake song ‘Wine and Spirits’


‘The differences between us, keep us together, yin and the yang is more than just a symbol, life is about balance, war and harmony, can’t have one without the other, I think we need each other’


Here’s to all the safe spaces and places we can create – inside and out.


Follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter and visit my website for more info!


 

Ciara Jean Roberts, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Ciara Roberts is a writer, yoga facilitator and nutritional therapist, with a pioneering spirit to create true and lasting change across the landscapes of holistic healthcare and medicine. Founder of Wholly Aligned, an innovator, quester and cross-pollinator, borne from the lessons and adventures with her kidneys, which failed at age 14. Charting several years at a young age on dialysis, two kidney transplants and a treasure chest of tools, she is uniquely placed as an insider/outsider to effect change in the current embedded systems. Stepping away from banking in 2012, she has dedicated her life to helping others awaken their inner physician and reclaim their innate sense of wholeness.

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