Yoga invites us to look within ourselves to harmonise mind, body and spirit and more frequently in the West we are seeking these opportunities. Yoga classes and yoga teachers are popping up all over Melbourne, embracing differing styles of yoga with a passion. We are mostly familiar with ‘yang’ style yoga practices such as Ashtanga, Dynamic Hatha, Vinyasa flow, Bikram and Power yoga. These practices are essentially dynamic, uplifting practices which energize our inner fire. For us to implement and persevere with change in our lives, we need the dynamism, creativity and flow these practices offer. A ‘yang’ practice gives us the vigour to rise once more when we stumble.
To maintain inner equilibrium, we also need times in our lives for stillness and inner contemplation, which in turn allows a space to explore our reactions and responses. A ‘yin’ practice cultivates these qualities. Both yin and yang yoga practices should be practiced for lifestyle balance. One cannot exist without the other, much like the sun and moon.
The lesser known ‘yin’ yoga practice focuses on creating an opening to allow the cultivation and transference of a deeper mindfulness to both our inner and outer selves – the yin and the yang of our personalities. The yin practice can take us deep within our lesser known aspects, sometimes called the Shadow side in Jungian psychology, and may provide illumination as we sit in a mindful, comfortable discomfort in these aspects. It is in the observation of our responses to both physical and mental discomfort that we can learn most about ourselves.
In a physical sense, a ‘yin’ practice focuses on a stressing and subsequent softening the deep connective tissue* that weaves throughout our body as we surrender in the poses, whereas a yang practice will stress and strengthen our musculature. Strength and suppleness are created in mind body and spirit when these practices are in balance. A key characteristic which sets yin yoga apart from other styles is the predominant use of seated or lying postures to target key areas of connective tissue. Props may be used in a yin class to support the body as it resides in the pose.
With the weight of our lives tipped towards increasingly yang lifestyles, a simple, profound and enlightening yin practice can tip the scales back into balance.
*connective tissue: bones, ligaments, tendons, joints, fascia