Written by Kirsten Waugh, our Evening Mysore teacher and general class teacher at Meadowlark Yoga.
I regularly teach yin yoga classes on the Meadowlark timetable but I’m particularly looking forward to a special moon day practice for our Mysore students this Friday morning. (Booking details HERE)
I know that many of our students attend other classes outside of our Mysore programme and yin won’t be new to everyone. I also know that even the most committed Ashtangi is often also a keen cyclist, swimmer, rock climber, *insert your chosen activity here*.
Some of the theory we use in Yin Yoga comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Yin and Yang are sometimes described as polar opposites but there is no absolute, and one is relative to the other. Yin is cold, dark, passive, feminine, where Yang is hot, bright, active, masculine. The list is far reaching.
If we apply the principles of Yin and Yang to our daily activities many of us are spending more time doing dynamic, Yang types of movement. If you think about an Ashtanga Vinyasa practice there’s a lot of rhythmic repetition. We lift up, jump back, jump through, repeat, often breathing heavily and building heat in the body as we go. This movement is supported by muscle tissue, and the muscle fibres are stressed in the process. Some of us are doing this as often as six days a week, not to mention the additional walks, bike rides, runs etc.
So what about the Yin activities? We might spend some time each day or week engaging in meditation, pranayama or a yin or restorative yoga practice. You might enjoy a little quiet time reading or listening to music. It seems like we sometimes have to make much more of an effort to carve out the time for the slower, more Yin practices. I sometimes feel guilty for sitting doing nothing. I start to think about all the things I could or “should” be doing instead, and I know I’m not alone here.
We can also apply Yin and Yang to the tissues in our bodies. Muscles like to be warm, they can stretch and return to their original shape easily so we would consider them to be Yang tissues. The Yin tissues include bone, tendons, ligaments and fascia. These tend to be less elastic and while they can change shape they respond better to gentle stress, applied over longer periods of time.
I know that my Mysore practice is taking care of the Yang side of my nature. I enjoy working up a sweat and knowing that I’ve pushed myself when the practice is done. But it’s about balance and that’s why I love Yin yoga too. It’s the more nurturing, grounding practice, where I definitely don’t have to work hard but can still reap the benefits. I can spend a guilt free hour or more rolling around on the floor and feel great at the end of it, physically and mentally.
When applying Yin and Yang to our bodies we don’t just look at the tissues but also the energy or chi. When the energy is out of balance health problems may arise. When the chi flows smoothly and without obstruction we are in a neutral state. Calm and at ease with the world. This is the state called Wu Chi.
We are all striving to find balance in our lives, and any type of yoga practice can help with this. If you tend to gravitate towards Yang activities then perhaps it’s time to slow down and focus more on the Yin. Conversely, if you’re more Yin by nature you might need to balance this out by introducing more Yang activity.
Traditionally Ashtanga practitioners take rest on moon days or perhaps enjoy a more gentle, grounding practice. If Yin is the moon where Yang is the sun, and Yin is earth where Yang is heaven then a moon day is surely the ideal time for Yin yoga. First thing in the morning is great, before the muscles have had a chance to warm up. Then we can stress the Yin tissues in the body more easily. Not that there’s ever a wrong time to do it….
Looking forward to sharing with you soon- our first offering is Friday 22nd May 2020, 8am. Booking details here and bookable via our normal Mysore pricing and timetable.