Thursday, 10 July 2008
REVIEW: Yin Yoga, The Practice of Quiet Power
Yin yoga is a series of long, slow postures designed to stretch the deep connective tissue of the body. The term seems to have been coined by Sarah Powers, but the concept is very old. The poses, or asanas, are the same ones used in other yoga styles. But where the other yoga styles put emphasis on 'yang', or movement and muscular contraction, yin focuses on gently increasing the flow of qi and prana through the connective tissues. Most of the oldest yoga seems to have been 'yin' yoga, which some refer to as 'Taoist' yoga.
I became interested in this style of yoga when I read about Sarah Powers's DVD 'Insight Yoga', so I ordered that DVD a year or two ago. To my dismay, I felt instantly and deeply put off from the practice because of a personal dislike I took to Sarah Powers's style of delivery. To be blunt, the women never stops talking. I couldn't understand how I was meant to go into a deep meditative practice with her yammering on at me incessantly. (That's my personal reaction to her--I know some people love her, including Biff Mithoefer!) So I sent that DVD back to the seller, who was good enough to give me my money back. If she was the best yin yoga had to offer, I couldn't see myself getting into it.
Then recently a friend online pointed me toward Biff Mithoefer's 'Yin Yoga Kit', assuring me that he keeps his commentary to a minimum. I ordered the set, even though there is no DVD, just a book, a set of 14 cards and a CD. Hubby and I tried out the practice day before yesterday.
The CD takes you through 11 of the 14 poses taught in the book. Biff's narration is helpful and brief. He offers mantras to accompany the breath, which I was surprised and pleased are from Thich Nhat Hanh! You hold each pose for 5 minutes, at the end of which a bell rings. Between each pose there is a 1 minute savasana (corpse pose) Props of various types are encourage to aid in proper alignment. We ended up using cushions from the sofa to help with some of them.
Both of us were surprised at how intense our reaction was to this yoga. There are only two rules to it:
1. Assume the posture and allow yourself to go into it to a bearable but challenging edge. Do not strive to go deeper into the pose.
2. Allow your muscles to relax, remain still, and hold the pose for the determined time.
And yet, we both felt a deep response in ourselves to this yoga. I personally found myself feeling shaky inside, a little nauseated and light-headed. My muscles were not shaking with strain, I was not hurting myself physically, but I was getting a very strong reaction anyway. I used long deep breathing and repetition of the mantras to move myself through this. At the end of the practice, I felt quite emotionally drained. Perhaps if I had done the metta meditation on the CD or done a deep relaxation savasana for an extended time afterward, it would have given me some recovery time, but we pretty much jumped up from the practice at the end of the 11th pose and started getting dinner ready. I will know for next time this is not The Firm Power Yoga--this is real yoga!
At the end of the CD there is a track of a silent five minute segment ending in a bell chime, which you can set your CD player to repeat. Then you can lay out the yin yoga cards in whatever order you wish on the floor next to you, start the player and do your own practice in silence, with just the sound of the bell every five minutes. I was also thinking, since the mantras on Mantra Girl's CD are roughly 5 minutes each , I could do one pose per song to her CD. There are lots of possibilities using this practice.
I believe this would be a good addition to anyone's yoga library. It's a wonderful, quiet and contemplative practice. We'll see if it increases my flexibility, which is the reason I bought it, but I think this yoga can offer so much more than just that.