9 Things I learnt from the Practice of Yin Yoga

I have been a yoga practitioner and enthusiast since I was about 4 years old. I inherited the love for yoga from my mother, who, in her younger days, was a closet yoga pro! (if there is such a thing)

I did my first yoga teachers' training program when I was 18. Since then, I have undergone 4 different types of teacher training programs, besides all the other things I kept learning about my own body, mind and life, all along a yoga journey of almost 30 years.

I learnt nutrition and experimented with several popular diets, became a certified sleep professional, learnt world philosophies, studied the science of movement, mastered various healing modalities, meditated for more than 12000 hours, traveled in the Himalayas, and spent an exciting life till I figured that I was now a full-fledged practicing biohacker! My consultations had started as casual conversations with family members, and went on to be a beautiful aspect of my entire being.

My one grandfather was a widely revered 7th generation Ayurvedic physician in Andhra Pradesh (India), and the other was a world-renowned medical doctor and an award-winning medical researcher who had traveled the world. So I think I might have inherited my inborn and almost prodigious interest and insight in health and healing from the two of them. After having practiced hatha, ashtanga & power yoga for almost 20 years, and also inculcating various other cardio exercise formats, including motorised gyming and non-motorised workouts, I came across Yin Yoga.

Yin felt like it was the yoga I was waiting to do all my life. Though I still continue to practice various different forms of physical movement in my every day practice, Yin is that constant component of my life that nurtures my being and supports every other practice that I do.

So what is Yin Yoga?

Yin is the yoga of letting go and that of simply being with ourselves. Yin Yoga practices involve holding each posture with attention and care, without forcing the body into an ideal pose but rather allowing it to express as it needs to and can, using props or not. (I know that sounds super technical, but trust me, definitions are all dwarfed by the enormous experience that is Yin Yoga. Just try it once. Please.)

What are the benefits of Yin Yoga?

Arizonian Yoga Practitioner Jessie Wren beautifully summarises the most tangible benefits of Yin Yoga as below:

  • Targets connective tissues including fascia, bones, and joints

  • Reduces stress

  • Increases circulation

  • Balances internal organs and improves flow of prana

  • Balances our yang or fast-paced physical yoga practice

  • Relieves tension

  • Improves flexibility

  • Encourages mindfulness and meditation

  • Helps develop a deep sense of self-love, self-acceptance and surrender.

  • Improves inter-personal relationships

Yin offers us space and time to feel our entire being, to listen to ourselves, to get below our own skin. Yin is the most comforting form of yoga I have ever experienced. It initially feels too basic or slow. Unlike other yogic practices, Yin sometimes doesn't even feel like an exercise routine. But what it does to our body and mind is healing, uplifting and calming at our deepest level. Spending so many hours on the mat doing Yin, has taught me many things and continues to teach me every single day. But here are 9 Things I learnt from the Practice of Yin Yoga:

  1. ‘Normal’ is a myth. Yin yoga practitioners don't force their fingers to reach their toes or their head to touch their knees. In Yin, your legs can be straight or lavishly bent! Our left and right stretches do not need to be identical, nor do our stretches every day need to be equally easy or graceful. Yin Yoga understands that we are not factory-generated symmetric replicas of each other and so there is no normal for any posture on any day for anyone. Yin respects the fact that we all have unique body structures, skeletomuscular constitution, mental makeup and hormonal cycles, and that it is all evolving & changing every moment. What you can do and feel comfortable doing today, is your normal today.

  2. Everything is right if it works for you. In many movement modalities, trainers push their clients to accomplish exercise milestones or perfect postures. But not in Yin. In Yin, there is no right posture. If it feels right to you, it is right as long as you are not doing something injurious to yourself, which your trainer will ensure till you learn to be more sensitive to your own body's whispers. When we learn to embrace ourselves so entirely, we also learn to respect other people and their uniqueness, even if it may be different or discomforting to us. This is one of the biggest leaps we can take in interpersonal relationships.

  3. Effort is over-glorified. Yin Yoga teachers insist that we do not make our postures effortful. There is no pushing. We allow the body to work with gravity. We offer ourselves support and acceptance. We let go of the need to do, perform or prove. We experience success by letting go, every day, on the Yin mat. And that, is a spectacular rerouting our brain learns over time.

  4. Pain is not always good. In Yin, the moment you feel any pain, you are no longer in 'Yin State'. Yin, therefore, educates our minds that it is possible to grow and achieve without always undergoing pain. This way we gradually help ourselves to let go of the old pattern of using our pain or the ability to bear it, as a measure of our worth. It also helps our brain de-addict from all the stress-hormones that we seem to have started enjoying without realising how they are gradually killing us.

  5. We feel uneasy with ourselves. Many practitioners experience immense emotional breakthroughs, psychological healing and stress release during Yin Yoga, because most of the times, all we really need to do is be with ourselves in silence, for long enough. And Yin makes you do that a LOT!

  6. Relaxing is easy! According to The American Institute of Stress, about 33 percent of people report feeling extreme stress and 77 percent of people experience stress that affects their physical health. And Yin helps us figure how simple it is to relax our sympathetic nervous system and reduce our stress on a daily basis.

  7. Relax, you can be stressed! A regular Yin practice keeps us relaxed for most of the time, while allowing us space to also express our inner stress and pain freely and fearlessly. When we accept our body and all its postures, we also learn to accept all our emotions and their expressions. A free expression of emotions heals the brain at a very biological level, thus not creating a need to categorize any emotion as wrong, negative or unacceptable.

  8. Everything is meditative. Yin Yoga offers us a profound anchoring in our inner center. A regular Yin practice silently shifts so much within us that we just start experiencing life differently. Yin helps us find that prevailing peace within us, that makes every moment meditative whether you are chilling on a Goan beach or dancing in a Russian Bar. (I do not know why I picked those two references, but I think some of my friends may be able to tell!) (Sorry for the random inside joke :)

  9. We can meet ourselves anywhere, including a mat. I did. Setting ourselves free begins with loving ourselves. And loving ourselves begins with meeting ourselves. Yin gives us these healing dates with ourselves and silently bridges so many gulfs that keep us disconnected from our own being.

While I have now evolved my own Yin Yoga Therapy modules, where I use multiple modalities and philosophies to deepen the whole experience of each of my sessions, I can never end this article without mentioning two of my foremost Yin Yoga Teachers, because of whom, I could make this yinriching journey into myself! Thank you Monika & Kassandra! Love you both from the deepest part of me. Happy Yining!

© 2020 by Nidhi Chaitanya