It refers to the much needed balance in everything in life. Yin, among other things, stands for turning inwards and relaxation, yang for example is about reaching out and taking action. We need both on a mental, emotional and physical level. In our Western culture we are often expected to mainly live a yang focussed life: Work hard, train hard, always be available and stay informed about everything that’s going on in the world. We tend to forget how important it is to rest, relax, isolate and turn inwards. We need to do these things to feel when we have reached our limits mentally, emotionally and physically. Our muscles simply need rest to perform and so does our mind. When we only live life on yang (or just yin) energy, we get out of balance and fall over.
In yin yoga we focus on turning inward and cultivating the connective tissue.
Connective tissue is situated throughout our entire body. It’s around our muscles, our organs and our bones and makes sure that everything in our body is being kept in place and gets enough energy and information. You can visualise connective tissue as tiny fishnets, with many different connections through which our body communicates with itself. When you train muscles, you need stress: Short, repetitive tension. When we cultivate connective tissue, we need a different kind of stress by stretching for a longer period of time. This is why in yin yoga, we stay in a pose for at least 3 minutes or more.
Your body needs 2 minutes approximately to give in to relaxation and start to make collagen.
Collagen is the liquid that makes the connective tissue flexible. The connective tissue eventually even starts to make new connections, so you’re literally making new cells. Rejuvenating your body. When your body is creating collagen, it becomes more flexible. You can compare this to a sponge that is dried up and can’t move, yet when it gets wet, you’re able to twist and turn it in any direction without effort. By cultivating your connective tissue on a regular basis, you can become more flexible. It is highly recommended when you have a job that requires you to sit in the same position a lot, like an office job, or when you do a lot of cardio and/or strength work-outs.
Because we need to stay in yin poses for a longer amount of time and relaxation is necessary for us to produce collagen, almost all the poses are either sitting or lying down.
And because everybody is different, we use props wherever necessary to make the poses even more comfortable. Whenever you are given a bolster or cushion during class to adjust your position, remember that this is not because you’re doing it wrong or you are not able to do the pose, but it’s just because I want to help you get the best result out of your practice for your body.
What is a yin yoga class like?
All yin classes start and end with a thorough meditation and we try to hold on to this state of being throughout the class by keeping our eyes shut as much as possible. The meditation helps us get into a relaxed state of mind, so that we can turn inward and connect to our inner selves, and for our bodies to do the work we need it to do. How we feel underneath all those many thoughts that run through our minds and that are present in our bodies. Next to that we discover the physical state of our body that day. Nobody is the same every day; the one day we can be cheerful and energetic, the other we might be tired and stressed. This is why our body, which is in a continuous connection with our thoughts and emotions, is not the same on any day either. A position that seems easy the one day, can feel challenging the next. Don’t be too hard on yourself about that. You don’t always have to do everything perfectly. By discovering this, you will be in better contact with yourself and start recognising what you need and how you feel. And that will help you make better decisions the rest of the time.