A student recently approached me after a Yin Yang class, and he said, “Yin is not for me, because it is too easy.” Yin yoga, unlike its action-packed, adrenaline pumping yang counterpart, is a stable, slow, restorative practice, in which you hold a seated or supine pose for 3-5 minutes. Yin is a completely passive and fluid practice. There are very few alignment cues, and the goal is to find stillness of the body, which facilitates stillness of the mind.
In the busy, highly stimulating world that we live in today, finding physical stillness, let alone mental stillness, is almost impossible. We have grown accustomed to a world of instant gratification and shortcuts, and sometimes bring these expectations to our mats.
What is stillness and why is it so hard?
From an outsider’s view, the yin practice may appear quite easy at first glance. In this prop-heavy, quiet class, there is very little movement. However, like an onion, the layers are myriad, and what may appear to be “just sitting or lying there,” may actually be the most difficult yoga practice of all. Yin is akin to trying to recreate the feeling of peace, silence and stillness we strive for in savasana, in each yin pose.
Simple Does Not Mean Easy
When I first tried Yin, I did not quite understand it. I was addicted to Power Vinyasa. If a workout did not make me sweat, I did not see the point. For some unknown reason to me at the time, I continued to go to Yin. At first, it drove me mad that I couldn’t quiet my mind. It was like I was watching a movie of every thought I’d had in the past two weeks. Exhausting! This physical stillness was unbearable to me. I was stuck with myself! No distractions. My mind was craving the constant stimuli it had grown accustomed to in this world of bombarding images, tasks, concepts, to-do lists, etc.
The real muscle to be strengthened in Yin is the mind.
Yin may appear to be a physically simple practice; after all, there are only about 20 poses. However, what is going on inside the mind is the most beneficial and potentially difficult practice of all. Many emotions, memories, and ideas will arise during a Yin practice, and the goal is not to suppress these sensations, but instead, observe them without identifying with each thought or adding stories. I like to use the analogy of a deep-sea calm. The surface may be torrential and crashing waves, however, beneath the surface, in the depths of the ocean, there is calm. When we are able to cultivate physical and mental stillness on our mats, even when challenges arise in the body or mind, we can take this newfound stability out into the world and apply it to our daily lives. If you have never tried Yin, I highly recommend it! Check out my Yin Yang class on Sundays at 11:30 am at Core Essence Yoga.