1301 Lafayette Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46802

10329 Illinois Rd, Fort Wayne, IN 46814

Phone: 260-627-YOGA (9642)


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Yin or Lose

I always feel little a bit like a Jehovah’s Witness on an atheist’s doorstep when I start to share my passion for Yin yoga.  My sermons about how Yin can save us from joint replacement, keep the qi (chi, prana, energy, whatever you want to call it) flowing through the meridian system and finally bring us to a balanced practice, are often met with cordial opposition. Outside, I see smiles and nods but inside they really just want me to give them pamphlet and get lost.

What is Yin?
Yang [sounds like gong] classes are most common in the United States and seem to satisfy our western obsession with visible results.  Those results are obtained through movement and repetition. Muscles are contracted during our yang practice to protect our joints. In turn, those larger muscles are lengthened and strengthened. Yin work is focused on getting less visible, but equally important results. Let’s use your car as an example. You take it to the car wash, maybe vacuum the seats once in a while and get any major dents or scratches repaired right away. But, you also spend the time and money to get the oil changed, have the occasional tune up and keep the washer fluid filled. Yin is just like that tune up, lube job, and cleanser. When we take the time to keep our joints and fascia (connective tissue) healthy, they are able to keep doing what they were designed to do for a much longer time. 
The biggest difference between Yin and Yang is time. According to Yin Yoga mac daddy Paul Grilley, in Yin Yoga, Principles & Practice, “the power of yin yoga is time, not effort.”  Poses are held for about 5 to 6 minutes, each with a slow transition period in between. Keep in mind these are supported postures; no crow pose for 6 minutes… The plan here is to apply a gentle ‘stress’ to ligaments and tendons. These types of tissues do not respond well to quick, abrupt movement which is why we work so hard to find proper alignment and muscle contraction in Yang class to protect them. To use an analogy from Mr. Grilley, Yin is kind of like braces for the body. We don’t wiggle our teeth back and forth really fast to get them to move into place. We use orthodontia to apply a slow, gentle ‘stress’ to safely move this type of tissue.

Kinda sounds like restorative…
Yin is a different practice than restorative yoga. While prop use is encouraged in both and there is a mutual focus on meditation, restorative is about, well, restoration.  Yin on the other hand is all about the stretch. And the meditation part is not-for-nothing; there is a science to how and why it works.
Meditative tools are used in Yin to try to get the parasympathetic nervous system on board. When we are worrying about something that happened earlier in the day or something that might happen later, our face, jaw and backside clench in.  We stay in ‘fight or flight’ mode and never get to ‘rest and digest’ (Bernie Clark, The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga). This is the same reason all yoga teachers are always going on about the present moment. When we stop fast forwarding and stop rewinding, we stop the over release of cortisol.  Reducing this nasty stuff can be so good for you as it has been linked to depression, insomnia and heart disease.

Mantra is another great way to move out of the sympathetic nervous system. I recently attended a Sarah Powers workshop and she introduced the most simple and effective mantra I have ever used, “What is going on now?” Just by asking yourself this question, you force your toddler of a thinking brain to find an activity to keep busy with.  See if you can get though 2 or even 3 self questions of “What is going on now” without letting your mind wander.

Why do I need it?
We want to avoid stress on the joints in yang because we are moving, flowing, and sometimes even jumping. This can cause the very ‘plastic’ tissues that make up the joints to become damaged.  Tendons and ligaments do not normally stretch more than 4 to 10 percent because they are made up predominately of collagen. (Bernie Clark)  Yin postures are specifically designed to safely move, apply pressure and introduce fluid to the joints.
Yang poses also require large muscle groups (think elastic) to contract. In yin, these muscles are relaxed so that the tendons and the ligaments can be stretched (think plastic). When muscles are contracted the joint is immobilized. Try flexing a finger and then try to stretch the joint or knuckle by pressing on that finger with the other hand.  We resist by contracting more and the joint does not get any stretch. When you relax your finger and don’t contract the muscles, notice how the joint is now feeling the gentle stress from the pressure of your other hand. This is yin in action.

This action also allows fluid to enter those areas. Without a direct blood source, we need the pressure and release in the joint to move synovial fluid, blood and other lubricants to these areas.  Without that action the tissue literally dries out, shrinks and gradually loses mobility. Additionally, as we age, the individual fibers of these tissues become more intertwined and create pockets for toxins to become trapped. The pressure and release of yin can work to flush out these areas and move trapped particles along and out through our waste systems. 

Yin will also benefit your yang practice. Still trying to get the old foot over the shoulder for compass pose (Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana)? Adding a regular yin practice will get you that extra flexibility you need to move the hip in this extreme manner. I am not saying it will happen tomorrow, but it will get closer than it is now. You will notice an increased range of motion in all of your yang postures and maybe even find yourself craving a little more time in the deep stretches at the end of a heated or flow class.

When can I get some?
Prana offers several yin classes. There are two full yin practices and a combination yin and vinyassa class. Monday Yin is southwest and Wednesday yin is downtown. 

Check the schedule for details.

We are all short on time and often, we can rationalize skipping this type of practice to get to what we deem to be results. But when we do this, we are leaving important areas of the body to atrophy and shrink. We can justify getting to the studio to sweat and stretch our muscles, but we let our joints dry up like a tired old kitchen sponge. Find the union in your yoga, the yin to your yang and a balanced body with these classes. Treat yourself like a Porsche instead of a Pinto and take care for what you can and cannot see.

About the Author: PranaYoga Teacher Kim Stanley, RYT200.                    After 11 years as a student, Kim finds the most beautiful thing about yoga is its adaptability to everyone.  No matter your age, physical ability or state of mind, you can take a class and find peace every single time; it is the only sure thing in this life.  Kim completed her 200 hour teaching certification from Pranayoga School of Yoga and Holistic health in 2013, and looks forward to continuing to learn about this amazing 5,000 year-old practice.  She has a B.S. in Organizational Leadership and lives in Fort Wayne with her husband and two children. 

Teaching: Yin Yoga, Hot Yoga, All Levels Yoga

No comments:

Post a Comment