Hey, Yoga Stud. Yeah, you, the one who’s doing the extra chaturangas during our child’s pose break. Handstanding your way into Tadasana on our first Surya A. Binding every posture, every chance you get. Doing three Wheel Poses while the rest of the class does Supported Bridge.
No judgies here. I know you’ve got a totally sweet practice, and I love how strong and flexible you are. But I want to introduce you to something that can really change your practice, maybe even your life: A quieter practice of Yin or Restorative Yoga.
HEY! Hang on, don’t start backing away yet. Yes, we will be very quiet and very still for long stretches of time. No… no, there are no inversions or arm balances. Hear me out! There are a few things you need to know.
Yin and Restorative Yoga Practices are two separate systems that are often taught together. Here’s a really simplistic definition of each:
Yin Yoga postures are designed to stretch the connective tissue of the body. The focus is on long, slow holds. Props may be added for comfort, but relaxation is not the primary goal.
Restorative postures are designed to invite relaxation by supporting the body completely through the use of props (blankets, bolsters, blocks, straps, maybe a cat if you have a lazy one). Stretching is not the primary focus, although it can be part of the experience.
Many classes offered will combine aspects of the two disciplines. It is possible to experience the Yin postures in a Restorative way, and by adding soothing music, dim lighting, and perhaps aromatherapy or inspirational readings, it can be a really wonderful experience that will KNOCK YOUR TOESOX right off.
Five Top Reasons to Add Yin/Restorative to Your Power Yoga Practice!
1. Yin Yoga increases flexibility in a whole different way. In your traditional “Flow” class, you’re stretching the muscles through active movements. Yin postures- held as they are for longer periods of time- stretch the connective tissue of the body. See, your muscles and bones and internal organs are all shrink-wrapped with special tissues that don’t respond to the active stretching we do in other types of yoga (not even hot!). Longer holds will help you to open more deeply, cultivating stronger and more flexible joints.
2. A quiet practice will quiet your mind. I have news for you. You are not the only person on the planet whose mind is veryveryverybusy with lots of chatter. This is the normal human condition. It may seem like only vigorous physical activity (perhaps coupled with loud pop music) can drown out the critical auctioneer in your head, but you can do better than muffling. You can find peace. Through a quiet practice of yin/restorative yoga, you’ll learn to tune in to the breath and the subtle currents of your body, and gradually, the commentary in your head will become less obnoxious.
3. Ancient Eastern medicine Yin postures stimulate the same meridian lines of the body that are worked through acupuncture and massage. Our chi (or prana, or energy, depending on your point of view) runs through the connective tissue in a complex organic communication network. By opening and clearing these passages, we can help ourselves to maintain healthier bodies.
4. Release competition. I know, you might really like competition. Sure, it is fun to work toward a goal, and to measure your progress and effort against your own previous results (or, perhaps, others’, although that’s really sort of a yoga no-no). It is exhausting to compete. It is often narrated negatively (Why can’t you balance today, you should be able to reach the floor with that hand, that other girl is doing it, why can’t you?) and it just drains the joy out of the moment-to-moment practice that yoga is intended to be. By releasing competition and comparison through a quiet, slow practice (often done in a dark room- I find it helps not to see what your neighbor is up to), you can access the practice, and the joy of moving and breathing in your body in a whole new way.
5. Let Go of Chronic Stress. Do you have any stress in your life? How about headache, heartburn, or a tight neck, back? In her classic volume, Relax and Renew, Judith Lasater explains that, physiologically, our bodies have not changed much in the last few thousand years. Our lifestyles, however, have altered dramatically. We experience stress today in ways that our ancestors never would have imagined- and yet our bodies are reacting as though there were a tiger chasing us. When faced with stress (a missed deadline, a missed opportunity, a missed mortgage payment) our heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension are elevated, and “non-essential” systems (digestion, elimination, growth and repair!) are partially shut down. For some of us, this is an almost daily occurrence. Research shows that we can counteract the effects of chronic stress by relaxing deeply.
Still not sure? Listen, I get you. Sitting still for an hour, or more might sound like absolute torture to you. I struggled with the concept for some time- swore I could never do it. But I tried it, and after a few classes, the chatter in my mind started to subside. I felt the benefits of slowing down and letting go. I saw how my joints loosened and my postures opened. And I want this for you, too!
If you’re looking for more on Yin Yoga and its fascinating benefits, here’s a nice article by Paul Grilley that sums it up nicely. Or check out Bernie Clark’s amazing site over at YinYoga.com.
Photo credit: myyogaonline / Foter