- You are not sweating.
- You are not burning fat or calories
- Its for people that can’t do ‘real sport’
- Meditation is a waste of time
- People are sitting and singing songs in a weird language and hugging trees
- Its only for housewifes that need a soft activity between their shop at whole foods and getting new eco sandals made of recycled bamboo
- Its for hippies.
Yes – these were the thoughts a few years ago.
I already went to a yoga class occasionally at my local yoga studio, and I guess my impressions were confirmed. Yogis waiting in the studio for the teacher to start the class, stacking cushions above each other, sitting cross-legged in the room enlightened by a lot of candles.
All those props, bolsters, blocks, straps, pillows, blankets, cushions – not for me. They are only for old people and everyone that is not flexible. In my first years of yoga, I never got any props. Because I’m not an unflexible loser. And I didn’t chant with the others. I was more coming back for the flow. Breathing and moving in a symmetric way, Inhaling and moving forward or upward, and exhaling while moving back or down. I liked that dynamic.
And that’s how I found ‘Power Yoga’. Power Yoga doesn’t contain chanting, or meditation. This is purely about the activity. Moving, creating heat in the body and the room, sweating. I never stayed in a pose for too long, so the alignment was more or less unimportant. The teacher guided us through the flow, anything beside that was pointless.
And I still love Vinyasa Power Yoga flows. They are very detoxing, emotionally and physically, you are so in the practice and the flow, that you will forget all those thoughts that are in the mind, like “What will I have for dinner?” “Do I have a dress for Annes Wedding?” and “Do I look fat in these leggings?”
Especially in the winter, when its dark, cold and wet outside, this is one of my favourite indoor “Sport Activities”. And if you don’t believe me, try it. This definitely deserves the undertitle “Sport”.
In my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training, I learned to love the asanas, the mula banda, the meditation and the philosophy behind the yoga tradition. This training made me understand that there is so much more behind the single asanas, that we store emotions in postures and in parts of the body. It made Yoga so much more interesting and Yogis so much more vulnerable. There is a reason, why we all come back to our mat again and again. Why we go through flows, and why we hold postures even if it gets uncomfortable. And yes, it will make us stronger and more flexible and like in any other activity, progress doesn’t come over night.
With my Yin Yoga Teacher Training with Bernie Clark I got to know the other – until now hidden – side of Yoga. The Yin Tradition. Yin, the opposite of Yang is the introverted, feminine and mysterious Yoga, whereas Yang is the extroverted Power Yoga.
And every Yang needs a Yin, so I want to share with you, what I learned in this Training:
Staying in a Yoga pose, becoming still and holding it over time, does not make you sweat. But it does something to you. Yin Yoga is designed to affect our body in a deeper, slower way; we put stress on our bones, ligaments, we stretch our fascia, connected tissues and organs.
While Power Yoga and all other Activities that train our Cardiovascular System (like running, cycling, sweating, swimming) prevent our heart muscle from slowing down – yes the heart is a muscle and we need to train it – yin yoga is crucial as we get older: We all get stiff. Yin Yoga actually stretches and loosens our inner organs, tissues. Imagine an old person with a walking aid (walker or walking stick) – running and cycling would have helped him to stay fast, but Yin Yoga is what keeps him upright.
Mostly its not a lack of muscles that curves the spine in old people, its stiffness in the ligaments and connected tissues and nerves.
It takes a certain amount of time to get the “creep”: You have to stay in certain poses for an amount of time to loosen. Some effects, like a deep stretch in the muscles, will be found after a minute. In order to put enough stress on the bones, you might have to stay for up to 20 minutes in a pose. Stress has a very negative connotation. But its actually very healthy, because it will send the information to the body to rebuild bones (so they don’t get hollow when we get old).
Yin Yoga is hard work. Trust me. In one week, I participated a Yin Class every day in the morning (between 90 and 120 minutes long) and my body is tired, like you can’t believe! I feel like my spine is worked quite a lot and I have even lost some weight. Probably some water weight that was stored in unnecessary places in the body and finally got released. Also I had quite a detoxing process happening in my body.
Yin Yoga asks for a good anatomical understanding. I believe, the smaller the class is, the better. As a teacher, I would want to have enough time to check in with my students, help them and hand them props. Oh yeah, one thing that I wanted to say about props: I love props. Seriously, from avoiding them, now I feel like I need a shopping cart when going to the shelf with the props. I want them all. Especially sandbags are quite helpful to intense some of the Yin Poses, like Sphinx.
Everybody is different. Every body is different. Bernie Clark showed me again (I remember these differences from Kreg Weiss’ Workshop) how people have totally different bone structures and how it affects the asanas. Not every pose is good for everyone. And not both sides of the body are equal. Sometimes we need to support one leg/knee/shoulder/hamstring with a prop and the other side not. Every body is different. And every day is different. That’s the magic about Yin Yoga.
I can highly recommend to try it out. Find a studio that offers Yin Classes, and be open to 90 minutes stretching and stressing the body. If you don’t want to miss out on the sweaty part, then simply find a day where you can sign in for a power yoga afterwards.