So What’s The Score With Yin Yoga?

You think Yin Yoga is going to be easy. I mean, it’s just lying there, right? How hard can that be? Well…

I’ve only had a few experiences of yin yoga, first off at the top of the Sydney Eye Tower at 7am,

morning views

then at the Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali,

the yoga barn

but my first real experience of yin yoga (ie: a non-touristy experience) was in London with my friend and fellow yogi Clare.

keith and clare

Clare teaches at the Yoga Hall in St Albans, among other places in and around the north London area, and it was while I was traveling around from hostel to hostel last year that I was fortunate enough to find myself within striking distance of one of her classes. So, after a short drive round the M25 (and a long argument with my sat-nav), I arrived just in time for her Thursday night class.

the yoga hall, st albans

main room, the yoga hall, st albans

Clare and I met at the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Putney, where she was a student and occasional teacher when I was there starting my studies. I was lucky enough to have had some Hatha Yoga classes with her there, so I was confident of a good lesson, but I hadn’t seen her since we both went off round the world to further our yoga experience, so I didn’t really know what to expect going in.

What else, of course, but a beaming smile and a warm welcome, lol. It’s always a pleasure to see old friends again is it not? Our pre-class reunion was necessarily brief though as I was late (sat-nav 1, me 0!), and so it was straight down to the business of proper relaxation.

For all the yoga I’ve done, when it comes to relaxing into a long stretch I am surprisingly inflexible: Not just physically, but mentally as well! Much as I have learned to just relax and let the postures happen, there’s still a part of me that believes that to do some ‘proper’ work you have to pull and stretch and puff and strain just to ‘get somewhere’.

But yin yoga isn’t about that at all. It’s about letting go, and not trying too hard. Letting the posture deepen by itself, naturally, and only going as far as you need at that time.

Though to say there’s no effort involved would be misleading indeed (NB: for a proper explanation on the subject read this article on yin yoga written by Clare herself). You’re trying to soften the connective tissue in your joints, and to do that you must relax your muscles and let the weight of your body and gravity do the work.

I, like a lot of people I imagine, have a bit of ego when it comes to using bolsters and blocks to support me. For some reason I consider it a bit of a cop out. More than once Clare had to come and add something under my knee, or beneath my head, so that I could properly let go and not be working so hard.

And y’know what, it helps, it really does. Trying to do too much too quickly is a barrier to your progress, and once again I was reminded that if I’d just listened to the instructions when they were given (and looking back after class I could see that the instructions were quite clear indeed, lol) I’d have been a lot better off.

Clare gave an excellent class, with a nice variety of postures properly explained with options and instructions for all levels of student, and by the end of it I felt quite relaxed and somewhat looser. Also, the music before and after class was a nice touch too.

I always say, you know when it’s a good class when you come away with one thing that you’ll always remember. In giving instruction during one of the postures, Clare warned against letting go too much. She recommended maintaining a level of mental activity, concentrating on your posture and what you were doing, rather than just forgetting everything and just letting your mind wander.

This reminded me of something my Tai Chi instructor used to say. He would point at the dots in the Yin Yang symbol and say, “See! Do you see that? You should always have a little yang in your yin, and a little yin within your yang. Never go completely one way or the other.”

Yin Yang - Symbol
Yin Yang Symbol‘ by DonkeyHotey on Flickr

And that to me was what Clare was saying; always keep a little yang within your yin. It’s better for you that way. Like when you do final relaxation: If you go too far, if you let your mind go as well as your body, you end up being nudged awake by the teacher because you’re snoring too loud, lol.

All told it was a great class, and it only served to increase my interest in doing more yin yoga in the future. I’ve got my eye on a yin yoga intensive in London later this year, and there’s even a teacher training course in Canada that’s awfully tempting.

It was great to see Clare again, and get to meet the lovely bunch of yogis she has as regular students (after class there was tea and biscuits!). If you’re in the St Albans area I’d recommend swinging by. She has other classes in the area you can go to too, so there’s many options for the aspiring yin yogi.

old friends headstand

If you’ve never tried yin yoga before you really should. You’ll be surprised at how challenging it can be, but also how rewarding and beneficial it can be as well.


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