Some years ago, my daughter told me about a new yoga she was doing. It felt like a role reversal as she told me the benefits and that You really need to do this, Mom. I explained how it wasn't gonna happen: I travel too much for a regular class schedule, I like to break a sweat when I work out, I don't have the discipline for yoga, yada, yada, yada. All foolishness!
So, one Christmas she was at my place, down on the floor in a pose, and I looked at her and said I need that! What is that?!? She rolled her eyes as only a clever daughter can and said I told you, Mom, YIN YOGA!
She explained a little about it: I got online to do some research. At that time, it was not easy to find a practitioner in my area, but there was a book highly recommended by everyone: Paul Grilley’s YIN YOGA. I ordered it and began a study.
Okay, so I'm still not disciplined enough for the regular practice of it. . . . But I am informed enough to know how important it is. And when I get into trouble (stiffness) and do it (for only a few moments), I see immediate benefits.
Here's the deal. Yan Yoga (what we are most familiar with) works on the muscles—which are like elastic bands (lots of stretch and hard to break unless you pull violently). Yin Yoga (a rarer practice) works on the connective tissues—which are more like pull taffy (with not so much stretch and easily broken unless you pull gently and slowly). So Yin Yoga has the following features.
- It's called the quiet practice because it's slow and gentle . . . and quiet.
- You always do it sitting or lying, so muscles are not engaged (because when muscles are engaged, the connective tissue cannot be stretched).
- You hold a pose for at least 2-and-a-half minutes—because that's how long it takes for the connective tissue to loosen and stretch. (As we sit in the simplest of poses—a forward bend—we may feel nothing for the first 2 minutes or so . . . but then the head slowly drops, and eventually it may touch the knees. I can tell you that never before—until I did this a few times—had my nose ever gotten close to my knees!)
- As we get older, it's the connective tissue that we need to work on: no matter how much we strengthen our muscles, an over-time shortening of the connective tissue is what makes us older girls (knitters and non) stoop. (This from my chiropractor.)
So, a true Yin Yoga class may be an hour long with only a few poses—no more than 10. But even if you do only one pose—like I do when I wake in the night with stiffness—it will make us feel limber and stand taller.
There is much more to it than this, but I invite you to check it out. After introducing one student to it, she later said Thank you! I think you just saved my life. I don't know if that proved to be true, but certainly improving quality of life is a result of a yin yoga practice.