“Learn to observe your emotions without needing to act or distract yourself from them. Within that stillness your truest most vulnerable thoughts will arise and it is these thoughts that will show you where your healing work must begin.” Alaric Hutchinson, Living Peace
Last year, I stumbled into a Yin Yoga class. Up until that time, ‘Vinyasa Flow’ was all that I had ever practiced. Its powerful dynamic flows fed my need to feel like I was working out. The practice seemed to have everything. It was a perfect recipe that combined strength, balance and flexibility work. The sweat and the euphoria that accompanied the practice, gave me the sense of accomplishment that I craved.
I found myself a little curious about ‘yin yoga’. I asked and was given the short answer – “We will spend the next hour working with deep but passive stretches. We will focus on holding these postures for a few minutes each. We will try and be still.”
It didn’t appeal to the ‘me’ at that time at all. I had about 5 to 6 thoughts pop into my head and compete for attention.
What, no moving? So, we just sit there and stretch? What is a deep passive stretch anyway? I like chathuranga, how about a chathuranga?
However, my curiosity had kicked in and I ended up staying to take the class. I reasoned that it couldn’t be too hard.
I was wrong – It was the hardest thing I had ever attempted in my life. Let me explain.
The poses were gentle and easy to perform.We were using pillows, bolsters, yoga blocks and an assortment of other yoga props. Our class even had relaxing music playing in the background. One instruction was repeated several times – “Do not try to push any pose, we aren’t trying to reach any specific goal pose.” Each yin yoga pose was to be held for 3-5 minutes. Some of the poses had friendly sounding names like happy-baby pose. Our task was to remain still, let go and become observers of our emotions.
At some point during the practice I felt the promised emotions. Then they got stronger. And then they became almost unbearably intense. Sitting through them while my body was begging me to tap out was terrifying. The last part nearly made me cry. I’m a grown man who was moved to point of tears. I’m not afraid to admit that now.
It was also deeply transformational – I got my first glimpse into the world of stillness and radical self acceptance. When I look at my yoga practice now, I realize how much of a central role yin yoga and its principles have played in evolving my practice.
So How Does Yin Yoga Work And Who Needs It?
The first person that comes to mind whenever I think of Yin Yoga is yogini Mrinali Madhukar.
She is an engineer turned yoga teacher who has been guiding people to the noble art of stillness in Bangalore.
I caught up with her and asked her share her thoughts on the subject with me.
She explains that Yin Yoga draws its ideas from Daoist principles of Yin-Yang. Yang is thought of as bright, energetic, activating and hot in nature while Yin refers to the more cool and calm aspects.
She explains that the practice of yin yoga is a complementary one to any other exercise form that you may be engaged in. It is designed to slow the practitioner down and help them calm their nervous systems.
Modern lifestyles constantly bring us in contact with stress. We respond to this stress by activating our fight or flight mechanism. Whilst this is a wonderful adaptation for short bursts of time, constantly being in this type of an activated state can have negative effects. Our bodies respond to stress by burying tension and emotional baggage deep within the connective tissues.
Over time we end up losing our full range of movement.
A yin practice teaches us to work with our parasympathetic nervous systems. It requires one to relax and become comfortable with stillness. The focus is on turning muscular control off so that we may work with the deeper connective tissues like our joints, ligaments and tendons.
It is not uncommon for many people to experience a release of pent up emotions during a session. Most come out feeling energized.
When asked about who this practice is meant for – Mrinali simply replies – pretty much anybody. Everbody, from the sedentary office goer to the highly active athlete or dancer can benefit from such a practice. Even older people can get involved as long as they practice under the guidance of an experienced instructor with the proper modifications.
She cautions however that this may not be the best fit if one has joint conditions like arthiritis or injuries.
About Mrinali Madhukar
Mrinali is an internationally trained yoga teacher – SYS 250 hours and SYS 500 hours. She started her career as an engineer but found her true calling in yoga.
She has been practicing and teaching since 2010. Mrinali is part of several teacher training programs at Aayana Yoga, Bangalore and specializes in the functional approach to the anatomy and physiology of yoga asanas, yin yoga and prenatal yoga.
Mrinali shared that there are some exciting yin yoga teacher training courses planned. If you want to deepen your understanding of this art please do get in touch with her at Aayana Yoga
Yin Yoga TTC Laos: 20th – 26th March
Yin Yoga TTC Rishikesh: 23rd – 29th August
Latest posts by Samrat Pasham (see all)
- 8 Yoga Poses That Every Serious Cyclist Must Learn - August 19, 2017
- Jal Neti : A Yogic Self Care Practice With Samrat Pasham - July 21, 2017
- Progress Your Forearm Stand With Samrat Pasham - July 18, 2017