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To Yin or not to Yin...?

How lovely has it been to slow down this holiday, switch off, relax and enjoying lay in's... guilt free?

Why do we wait till the holiday's and then stop when they're over?

We live in a world with so much Yang... and need more balance in our lives. We need to balance our Yang lifestyle with more Yin, especially around this time of year, Winter is a time of Yin energy.

According to Ayurveda, the colder, darker months of Autumn and Winter are governed by Vata & Kapha Energy and like the rest of nature, we need to respond to the seasons... sleep and rest more (like animals... hibernate in the winter). We are programmed to eat more in the winter and Ayurveda suggests warm, nourishing and seasonal foods. The lack of sunlight affects our strength and immune system as well as our emotions. So we need to eat warm food, rich in vitamin D, we need to take care of ourselves as we become more susceptible to colds, flu and getting run down this time of year.

The problem is the world around us is so Yang, we often resist this time of year (and we resist 'change'). We seem to have lost touch with our Yin side and when we don't flow and harmonise with the seasons we are literally resisting the natural way of things. We then get 'stuck' energetically... and this is the time of year we need to be 'turning the volume up on the inside', to take care of ourselves, to nourish and love ourselves, we need to rest and reflect... take a step back.

To stop being 'Humans Doing' and start being 'Human Beings'.

Feel like it's always non stop and then wonder why we become poorly when we finally stop...?

The same as Ayurveda invites us to find 'balance' between "going with the flow" and "grounding", Traditional Chinese Medicine also invites us to 'slow down' this time of year and move inwards. Taking care of ourselves also means connecting with our feelings and emotions and all too often illness manifests from repressed emotions and withheld feelings like anger, sadness, grief and worry.

This is where Yin comes into the equation for me...

For me it is where I found balance in my life.

Being a Yoga Teacher, all too often people assume you are super chilled and calm all the time. I found Yoga (and Yin) as I needed balance in my life, I needed to escape my hectic, demanding and very stressful lifestyle and career at the time. I worked ridiculous hours, from the minute I woke up I was thinking about my to do list... I woke up stressed, I went to bed 'stressed'. I was stressed all the time and didn't know how to unplug... how to stop.

There was two things that helped me escape... Yoga and Surfing.

When I saw the ocean I became calm, when I did yoga... I'd breathe.

Then 4 years ago I discovered Yin Yoga and if you want my honest opinion, my first reaction or experience with Yin was not 'love at first sight', I left the class, thinking "well that was a waste of my time!"... I felt like I hadn't got my monies worth! It just so happened one of my favourite teachers did a Yin class after a regular Sunday class I went to and so I thought, "well it's another hour of yoga, why not!". Then a fascination started as I became aware of a 'shift' and how I felt after this class, it was different to how I felt after a Yang practice and I started to make time after the class to just go sit somewhere and 'be'. I didn't want this feeling to end.

I then decided to do a Yin Yoga Teacher Training course and it changed my yoga altogether. I almost had to unlearn all that I thought I knew about yoga, I learn't more about my practice and my body than I had learnt in the last 10 years. It literally changed my yoga practice and I became more mindful, more patient with my body, I listened to my breath and my practice became so much more deeper.

The quote "We don't use the body to get into the pose.We use the pose to get into the body" by Bernie Clark, sums it up for me! Yin allows you the space and time to take your body there, to listen and to 'feel' the body. It's an amazing feeling when you find that 'Goldilocks Position' as we call it in Yin Yoga... that soft edge.

When I was first introduced to the idea of Yin and that the idea was to switch off the muscular effort... I just couldn't quite grasp the concept. I thought... "well, how am I meant to feel anything then?". This was the point I realised that my yoga practice up until then has been more about a 'work out' to me and while there is nothing wrong with that... for me, I realised I had been missing the point, the bigger picture and a whole new world opened up to me.

Yin Yoga is a passive yet deep practice, based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), working on Meridian lines (similar to Acupressure and Acupuncture). These Meridian lines are energetic pathways that run through the body and the idea is to release these energetic pathways or channels to allow the flow of qi or chi (vital life energy) to flow. Poses are held for longer periods of time to get into the deeper connective tissues, such as ligaments, joints, tendons and fascia, so you are not working with the muscles. While Yin is a passive practice, it can be quite a strong and deep practice and isn't necessarily always relaxing. The poses can be stronger because you are holding them for longer and working on connective tissues which are more plastic in nature, unlike muscles which are elastic in comparison. Holding poses for longer periods allows you time to connect to your body and breathe and is very calming for the mind and I like to refer to it as a 'meditative practice'.

Other benefits are that it helps improve flexibility, circulation and nourishes the connective tissues that we wouldn't otherwise stretch (or 'stress' as we call it in Yin). It can help to reduce anxiety and stress, as it gives us the ability to quieten the mind. Also helping us to tune into the more subtle aspects of our yoga practice.

So if you want to the answer the question... "To Yin or not to Yin?", then ask yourself one thing, "Is there too much Yang in your life..?" and there is your answer!

I run monthly specials which include 'Yin & Restore', which is a combination of Yin & Restorative Yoga (thats another post!), but if you wanted to join me on my next session to see what this 'Yin' is all about, then take a look on the Yoga Classes section on the website and come join me!

It's fast becoming one of most popular sessions I run and gets booked up quickly, which I think also highlights how much we are all realising the need for more Yin in our lives.

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