A quiet practice, meant to awaken different tissues and energies in us.
Yin Yoga has two main characteristics: we do it with the muscles relaxed, and we stay in the poses for longer periods of time.
All poses are done on the floor, and we normally stay on poses somewhere between 2 and 5 minutes.
A Yin Yoga practice targets the connective tissue of our bodies. These tissues are rich in fluid, and the structure of these fluids is fundamental in determining our flexibility, health and well being. When we stimulate the connective tissue (or fascia) gently for a while, we can greatly affect these restructuring and regenerating processes. As a consequence, energy can flow much more effectively throughout the whole body.
But there is more. Yin Yoga stimulates our introspection, our capacity to stay still and observe what is happening inside our bodies and minds. With regular practice we become calmer and more able to relax even when facing challenging times.
Yin Yoga is a wonderful preparation for meditation.
Yang Yoga is all yoga that uses the traditional (yang) approaches of dynamic and repetition to stimulate blood flow, muscle activity, coordination and balance.
Classes can be gentle or challenging, as we sometimes need one and sometimes the other. The important thing here is not to strive for perfection but for practice: it is better to do something that invites you back to the mat soon than to exert yourself and give up too soon.
Combine the best of both worlds. It is our signature class.
About Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang are the names given by the Taoists to describe what they call the two main forces in the universe. They called Yang everything that is dynamic, constantly changing, visible, hot and strong; they called Yin everything that is static, quiet, hidden, cold and soft. Those terms are not absolutes, they are the two parts of a whole: one does not exist without the other. For the Taoists – and for the yogis – a well balanced life involves both aspects balancing each other.
Our modern lives are extremely yang oriented: we value visibility, competition and strength. In order to experience true fulfillment we need to keep those qualities in check, lest they develop into ego-boosting, aggression and stiffness. The best way to do this is by cultivating our Yin attributes of kindness, spaciousness and silence.
A well rounded yoga practice satisfies our need for both aspects: some people need more yin, some more yang, but we all need them both.
Many people think that meditation means to became perfectly quiet and stop all thoughts. Of course that is a wonderful state to be achieved, but for most of us that is an elusive and seemingly impossible goal. But even if we never get to this point, a regular meditation practice can bring us us insights, depth of feeling, understanding, wisdom and peace.
In yoga, meditation has two stages: stage one, called dharana, is the practice of focusing the mind on one object and holding it there for longer periods of time. This object can be anything: the breath, an affirmation or mantra, one or more of the energy centers sitting in our spine. In the beginning everything in us rebels against this effort; we want to move, to do something, we come up with all kinds of reasons why we should stop – our legs fall asleep, our back hurts, this is a waste of time, and all the etceteras. But if we stick to it against all odds, something deep inside of us shifts and becomes quieter. This quietness then slowly allows us to explore and examine our feelings and behaviors with calmness and non attachment.
When we become established in this practice the second stage becomes possible: dhyana, or the complete absorption in what we are observing. In this state the separation between us and the object of our observation disappears, and our experience and understanding takes us to a whole new level. It’s as if the “I” that is constantly telling the story of us temporarily fades and we become one with everything.
Those are difficult concepts to explain in words. The best way to understand it is by doing it.
Yoga is mainly a practice, and it cannot be learnt from books (or films) alone. But there are certain principles that can help and guide us through the unavoidable ups and downs of our practice and our life.
Anatomy: Understanding the basic principles of how our bodies work, and of how we are all different and unique, can be a huge help when navigating through the physical practice of yoga. It helps us prevent injuries, and deal with weaknesses and stiffness in an effective way. Ultimately, it is not the perfection of the shape but the effect a pose has on us that truly matters.
Philosophy: The ultimate goal of yoga is not physical perfection but self realization. As we progress on our path, we encounter many difficulties along the way: how to deal with our own baggage and that of others, how to examine our behavior and affect it in a positive way. We need inspiration and that can be found abundantly in the teachings of yoga. We get some insights into the human condition that speak right to us, simply because we are not alone on this path, and the wise yogis who have walk it before us have left us an incredibly rich source of guidance and inspiration.