Almost all of the yoga done in the United States is “yang.” It’s movement oriented and emphasizes muscle engagement. Every known “style” of hatha yoga is yang. Even the so-called “gentle” yoga classes are yang because of that emphasis. Only yoga that is done with relaxed muscles is yin. Only yoga that is energetically quite is yin. Only yoga that is done without goals in mind is yin. We don’t try to fix anything or create any specific feeling with yin yoga. We allow what happens on all levels to happen. So it’s completely different and even positively opposing to how yang yoga is done.
Yin yoga is completely different energetically, but it’s still about energy. It’s still hatha yoga because hatha yoga is the yoga of energy and yin yoga allows us to relate to how energy can be experienced in a truly relaxed way. It informs us through experience and it informs us about our yang yoga practices in comparison. So what does our yin yoga practice say about our yang yoga practice? More specifically, at WYC, what does our yin yoga practice say about our Ashtanga practice?
Well, for starters, it tells us that we might not want to refer to yoga practice as being “ours.” Right there, with that possessive view, we have limited yoga to the personal. With yin yoga, we allow ourselves to spread out beyond personal space. We experience spaciousness itself. We experience spaciousness itself in connection with trans-personal energy.
And part of that allowance of space has to do with holding the poses a long time. With Ashtanga, we do poses for five breaths, with Ujjayi breathing to experience energetic pleasure. With the Slow Deep Stretch way of practicing, the poses are held for a long time. So it’s not necessarily easy–especially for new students. Even for most beginners the poses are easily adopted, but holding a stretch without any muscle engagement for up to five minutes can be emotionally as well as physically challenging.
That’s why Yin Yoga master Paul Grilley says, “Feelings of vulnerability and fragility are a sign of correct yin style practice.” Again, most of the yoga done around the world is done with the intension of forcing a very positive experience into existence. That’s yang yoga. It’s muscle oriented. Yin Yoga (or what is more commonly known as Slow Deep Stretch) is ligament oriented. But the real yoga of Slow Deep Stretch comes from energy experiencing. We experience energy in context of the way our life force feels. People who don’t experience their life force pleasurably on a regular basis become numb. Sadly, it’s a common state in our society. If you’re interested in allowing yourself to experiencing a trans-personal spaciousness that gives room to a different kind of connection to life force in general, come a practice Yin Yoga.
Yes, in the beginning it will be challenging to just allow yourself to feel the effects of how you’ve been living. Those are not pleasurable feelings to experience. But things change. With Yin Yoga we don’t focus on what we have to gain from doing yoga, but the truth is that stretching works miracles. We become sensitive to our life force again, and suddenly it makes sense to be able to describe the different ways that energy moves through us on a trans-personal level. Yin yogis speak of energy feeling “earthy, watery, fiery, metally, or woody.” Those are the Taoist elements. Some people can sense them from the first time they start stretching. But if that’s not the case, then you’re numb to the pleasure of existence, and the practice is all the more important. If your connective tissue is in a challenged state, your initial experience with Yin Yoga will be challenging. That’s where most people start. Don’t worry. With practice, the emotional truthfulness deepens and we experience our original goodness. And nothing has to be fixed. The key is to accept what we are feelings. And even flexible people need help with that, so we all start where we start. Then, with each practice, we start with a sense of linking up with a part of us that has already given up striving. That allows us to appreciate our own existence no matter what. We’re not making ourselves a problem any more. We’re not continuing the idea that we need fixing (that otherwise continues to our dying breath, never having let us experience life as it is because we spent life trying to fix ourselves, but really just making ourselves a problem). So let’s not make ourselves a problem starting now. It’s unnecessary since, right now, we can naturally and effortlessly link up with a sense of original goodness. In short, then, Yin Yoga is about allowance. You can allow yourself to come in and practice Yin Yoga every Saturday at 8:30am. The class ends at 10:00.