There’s a well known saying in yoga:
It’s not about touching your toes, it’s what you learn on the way down.
It’s cheesy, but true.
Despite this, thousands of people first try yoga because they’re determined to reach their feet in a Forward Fold. As well as being the main motivation for many, it’s also the most common excuse for everyone too. Saying you’re not flexible enough to do yoga, is the same as saying you’re too dirty to take a shower!
Either way, if you want to touch your toes, consider trying Yin Yoga. If you’ve not heard of it before, you might be wondering what it is. It’s a slower style of yoga that is super stretchy. It stems from traditional Chinese medicine and has three core concepts:
1) YOUR EDGE - finding that sweet spot. Usually about 75% of your maximum stretch. For sure you can feel some sensations, but it’s comfortable, almost enjoyable, and you’re still able to relax.
2) STILLNESS - pretty self explanatory. We try and stay still. This means also resisting the temptation to fidget which is easier said than done, I know.
3) TIME - in a Yin class we hold postures for anywhere between three to six minutes.
For those of you who have been in my Yin classes before, you’ve probably heard me talk about elastic bands and Blu-tac. When we practice more dynamic forms of yoga (Yang), we’re definitely stretching, but were stretching in a similar way to an elastic band. We pull the muscles tight and taught, but when we let go, they ping back to the same shape they were before. The more we do it, the more stretchy and supple the band gets, but it can take a while to see results.
In a Yin practice, however, we go a layer deeper to our fascia (connective tissues). This kind of stretch is similar to when you roll a ball of Blu-tac/putty in your fingers, over time it gets a bit warmer and you can begin to mould it, shape it and slowly stretch it out. You’ll know from experience, that when you let go, it stays in that shape rather than returning to a ball. This style of stretching is more likely to give you the long term flexibility you’re looking for.
Although Yin is a standalone class, it’s not intended to be a standalone practice. It’s all about balancing the Yin and the Yang; they’re complementary to each other. Yin and Yang tissues respond differently during exercise. Our Yang muscles require heat and movement to stretch or strengthen like in a Vinyasa practice, while connective Yin tissue responds best to the long steady holds with a little bit of stress.
Other than helping you touch your toes, here are some other benefits of a Yin practice:
- Reduced inflammation of joints.
- Improved long term mobility and flexibility.
- Improved circulation and detoxification of the body.
- Trains both your body and mind to relax and surrender.
- Often leaves you feeling emotionally lighter. In yoga we say people ‘hold issues in their tissues’ and believe stiffness is usually a physical build up of stress.
- A regular Yin practice reduces your risk of sports injuries.
- You’ll grow old more gracefully with less aches and pains. It’s the best anti-ageing remedy.
Not bad, hey?
If you’d like to try a Yin class you can join me in the studio on Mondays (19.30 - 20.45) and Wednesdays (18.00 - 19.00). There’s also a Yin-Yang on a Tuesday evening (19.30 - 20.45) and a Yin/Restorative class on Sundays (17.30 - 18.45). Book in via Momoyoga.