To Yin, With Love...

“That was delicious…I like to use food adjectives to describe this class,” she said as she staggered into the prop room with her savasana hair. I smiled and replied that I was glad she enjoyed class so much - we had just finished Yin yoga - but on the inside I was whining with jealousy.

Since becoming an incubator for human life (sounds more epic than “pregnant”), I have left Yin yoga out of my personal practice. Yin yoga targets connective tissues and joints in the spine, hips, and legs. During pregnancy, the body produces a hormone called relaxin, which relaxes muscles, joints, and ligaments - great for the expansion required during labor, a little less great for stability, steadiness, and digestion. I personally feel that doing Yin while “on relaxin” would turn me into a puddle of goo, leaving my frame too fluid to support the rest of me. The problem is, I really miss my Yin.

When I first began practicing Yin, I knew it was something I needed in my life because it made me want to cry. Sounds crazy right? Instead of pushing to the limit, we go to 60-70% of stretch capacity in each pose; that’s because we’re trying to stimulate connective tissue (fascia) as opposed to stretching muscles. It’s a “back off to go further” approach. During the 2 to 5 minutes of stillness in each pose we relax muscular effort and attempt to release held tension. That’s where the emotion comes in to play for me:  The “made me want to cry” thing indicated some deeply held tension that needed to unwind. When I practice Yin, when I practice yielding, I can feel my body literally rearranging itself. As I commit to stillness, my fascia slides around under my skin, mobilizing, hydrating, and aligning. I watch this reorganization with an attitude of “whoa that is so mind blowing and cool and weird.”

Yin is impactful not only for the body but also for life off the mat. It’s an opportunity to retrain our response to life’s stresses; we can learn how to yield and go with the flow when things are out of our control. I try to practice this on I-40, when I’m mentally anywhere from “everyone is an idiot” to “all these cars are out to get me.” With mindfulness I can catch myself in the pattern of bad traffic, white knuckles, and held breath. Then instead of maintaining the tension, instead of pushing back, I try to find my breath and relax. From that headspace, the idiocy of my fellow drivers (it’s never my fault) seems way less significant and I’m free to flow on to the next thing.

Even though I’m not holding physical Yin poses during my pregnancy, I’m still trying to put the skills I’ve learned into practice…I have a feeling they’re going to come in handy sometime in the next two months. What about you? Do you need a little restructuring for your spine, hips, legs, and maybe even your attitude? I’m not saying it’ll be easy but it has the potential to be transformative. I teach Yin Yoga on Mondays at 6:00pm at The Glowing Body and I’d love to see you there.