How I Discovered Yin Yoga And Why You Should Give It A Try
We should talk more about health. A lot more.
In my case it culminated in a case of sudden hearing loss just a couple days before Christmas 2015. I took it as hard a warning signal as it could get.
I'll leave details for another time (for example, what I did the immediate days after the diagnosis or what I am changing in my life since then besides the Yoga...).
I had planned to do a strict period of 6 weeks to try out different things. But it took less time to find something that really helps me, a lot. That thing is Yin yoga.
Yin Yoga is to most other forms of Yoga, what Tai Chi is to Kung Fu.
Yin Yoga is mostly done lying down or sitting. Poses are just slightly stretching the connective tissues instead of tensing the muscles. Poses are being hold for up to several minutes – the longer the better.
The effects are profound. I feel calmer, more relaxed, more focused, more sensitive, more aware, more empathic, more positive (to the point where I'm getting pretty aware of my constant ranting and sarcasm and how it doesn't help anything at all but only spreads negativity).
To me, Yin Yoga feels much more like a relaxation method which deeply involves your body – while traditional yoga feels more like a body exercise which also relaxes your mind.
When my six weeks of experimenting started, I kind of randomly stumbled into different yoga classes around town to find one which suits me. Among them was also a Yin Yoga session – me not knowing at all what it is about. After that one session I was hooked immediately, started googling the topic on the way back home and rented half a dozen books and DVDs from the library later that week.
Within one week I've grown from trying it out to doing it two times a day. For the first time ever, I found something which doesn't feel like I "have to do it", but like something that I miss when I don't do it. When I wake up in the morning, I'm looking forward to doing it. When I come home from work, I'm looking forward to doing it. When the weekend arrives I am looking forward to finally having the time for really long sessions.
Ok, now what is so great about all this?
- The body floods itself with all the chemicals it can produce. It quite literally feels like it is talking to my mind, saying something like "thank you for doing this – here, have this ton of drugs that I produce myself and which will make you feel awesome for the next couple hours".
- It results in a state state of deep focus and relaxation.
- The body becomes much more sensitive in very short time: you recognize wrong postures when sitting or walking earlier and can correct them.
- I realized how doing nothing while feeling well and relaxed is a totally valid way to spend time. Just lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling is time well-spent as long as you are happy and stress-free.
- Training times are flexible: while I keep my set of poses currently fixed to establish a routine, I use a generic exercise timer to vary the average time I hold each pose. That way, a session can go from as little as 15 minutes (which makes the lunch break a lot more refreshing) to up to as long as I can imagine doing it (~80 minutes is the longest I did so far).
- Little to no gear necessary: When I started the six weeks of experimenting, I made it a rule to hold off buying any gear. So I am not shopping for yoga blocks or fascia rolls or reflexology balls or whatnot. I treated myself with a good, mid-priced, no-name yoga mat though – not slipping around on the floor makes training a much nicer experience. (I can do it on any regular carpet though, for example while travelling. Good to know.)
- I can do it easily at home or work, at my own times, at my own pace: the risk of bad effects from training "wrong postures" is smaller, because there isn't much strain involved in the first place. As long as nothing hurts, you're probably much better off than not doing it and lumping around on the couch, even if your poses are not "correct". (That doesn't mean I give a shit about doing poses correctly. It just means doing them at all is good and I don't let imperfection stress me).
- Yin Yoga is "modern": It was invented only recently (around the early 2000's), which gives it a fresh breeze between all the traditional Yoga old-schools. Poses occasionally feature names like "Shoelace" or "Happy Baby". This lowers the hurdle to get creative yourself. For example, I pulled some exercises from a DVD called "Yoga for shoulders and neck". These are not Yin Yoga poses you will find in the books, so I gave them my own names like "salty stick" or "buckled straw".
So, no, I am not saying that Yin Yoga will work great for you or have similar effects.
But body and mind are connected. How you feel is a direct result of the chemistry acting out in your body. Hormones, peptides, electrical currents, chemical reactions determine how you feel.
When you move, when you excercise, when you walk, when you do sports, you're altering that chemistry and you feel better. It's really that simple. Ask any physician on the planet.
If you were ever intrigued by topics like Yoga, Tai Chi, Aikido, Meditation or Zen in the past, but never knew how and where to start, give Yin Yoga a try!
Just check into any random Yin Yoga class in your town or on Youtube – and remember that the library is your friend.