For most of the last twenty years I have practised typical yang styles of yoga, such as Ashtanga and Iyengar. However, a few years ago I started to have consistent neck pain and discovered even postures as simple as downward dog and sequences like Sun Salutation, which feature it, were no longer available to me. I wasn’t sure what to do about my practice until I came across a local Yin Yoga class and realised this was perfect for me. Like many people I enjoy hatha yoga for its physicality but that meant I could also avoid doing what really matters most when it comes to yoga, and that is just sitting, just being. ‘Stop and be still’ was not a concept that was familiar to me. So when my neck pain became worse it was the force I needed to make me find a new way to get in touch with the energy in my body and find a few moments of stillness and calm.
So, what is Yin Yoga? Bernie Clark explains that ‘most forms of yoga today are dynamic … designed to work only half of our body, the muscular half … Yin Yoga allows us to work the other half, the deeper … tissues of our ligaments, joints, deep fascial networks, and even our bones.’ Yin Yoga also works with the ancient Taoist principles of Chi and the meridians, which are stimulated, allowing energy to flow freely through the body, releasing both physical and emotional blocks during the long-held postures. Holding mostly seated and lying postures for a minimum for five minutes might not sound particularly difficult, but to a yang-yogi such as myself, it is actually a real challenge to remain still and be with the sensations which arise; be they physical or emotional. We are so used to running around, working, going to the gym, shopping, blogging, googling and generally filling our lives with ‘stuff to do’ that taking an hour out to do very little, while actually achieving a great deal internally, seems like a luxury we just can’t afford. However, we can, and we should. I am still struggling to just sit and be, but as Patanjali stated; ‘persevering practice is the effort to attain and maintain the state of mental peace.’ I’ll keep persevering as long as I am blessed with days to walk this earth.