1. Balance Yin/Yang
There’s no question that life is moving pretty fast these days. We are confronted with more information and stimuli than ever before, and there’s a certain expectation to work harder, faster and stronger. This is even seen in our exercise routines, with “power” yoga practices becoming more and more popular. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with yang practices, which builds heat in the body, make us feel strong, and give our bodies a strong work out. What we’re saying is this: everything in moderation. All aspects of life require balance. When we work too hard, we burn out. This is why yin yoga helps to restore energy in the body, mind and soul. As a slow, meditative, grounding practice it helps us to land in the present moment and breathe into it. Try incorporating yin yoga into your routine and see how your other practices improve along with it.
2. Heal your connective tissue and joints
In yin yoga, we hold poses for so long to get past the surface muscles and give the tissues and joints some love. With more time in the pose, it builds trust to allow our body to release tension and let go. It lengthens, stretches, compresses, and works the tissues and joints like a good massage can. We do so much work with our muscles, it’s important to work what’s underneath as well -- especially because everything in the body works together to function at an optimal level.
3. Learn to face your emotions
Have you ever been in a yin class when all of a sudden you experience a strong rush of emotions that you weren’t expecting? There’s an expression “the issues are in your tissues”. It’s common knowledge in the yoga world that we hold a lot of emotions in our chest and hips. Pigeon Pose is known to bring up some strong feelings, as well as backbends and heart openers. As humans, our natural instinct in the face of danger is to curl up, protect our chest and neck. Heart-openers can make us feel vulnerable, but ultimately release that fear and give us emotional release. The hips carry a lot of physical tension, weight, and can also give us a strong release during long holds in a hip-opener. Being “forced” to sit still in silence with these emotions and feelings gives us emotional resiliency and teaches us not to resist, but to feel.
4. Reduce anxiety
As we sit still, slow down and confront our emotions with patience and compassion, we learn valuable tools to reduce anxiety. When beginning a yin yoga practice, most people can experience anxiety holding poses for longer periods of time. It’s the commitment and repetition that allows us to realize there is nothing to be anxious about, and our brains adapt to the situation, finding joy in the stillness. Finding peace on the mat allows us to find peace in our day-to-day lives.
5. Preparation for meditation
Seated meditation can be an intimidating practice for many. After a few minutes, many people feel aches, pains and stiffness. Many people feel overwhelmed by sitting in complete stillness with their mind and no guidance. Yin yoga is the perfect gateway to seated meditation. It stretches, smooths out and prepares the body to sit upright in stillness, and gives us practice in observing our minds. One simple route is to start with moving meditation (yang yoga), meditation within still poses (yin yoga) and then finally still seated meditation. Be kind and gentle with yourself and your mind, and take baby steps!