Intro to Yin Yoga

The first time I went to a yin yoga class I hated it.

Up until that point, I had mostly been taking hot, power vinyasa classes. I thought the more challenging, the better. I wanted to feel like I was “accomplishing” something with my time.

I left that first yin class feeling like it was a waste of time to be so still, to do so few poses and to hold them for so long.I dramatically vowed that I would not be coming again.

I now teach that same class that I vowed never to return to, I took over for the teacher when she moved to another state. That very teacher taught me there was so much more to yoga than asana (poses) and how important stillness truly was.

After my dad was killed and I was processing trauma of his violent death, I needed my yoga mat more than ever, but I was not in the emotional space to attend hot, power vinyasa classes. I started attending slower paced classes and yin called me back. I broke my dramatic vow because I trusted the teacher who was unknowingly helping me so much through a fractured time in my soul.

Holding poses for such long periods of time as opposed to flowing in and out of them has been transformational to my practice. On a physical level, it has helped me with hip and low back pain. It has been amazing for my feet and an absolute savior for the struggles of my migraine headaches. Squat pose has helped use the restroom with confidence in China, India and hiking trails around the U.S. I also began to learn how to be OK with stillness, the discomfort of my anxious thoughts, the inescapable sadness I was drowning in and the unfamiliar anger that was roaring inside of me.

The real benefit has been in practicing taking a breath or two between a stimulus and response. I teach and practice this when a pose is challenging. Before moving, before coming out of the pose, before looking for a distraction, can I take two breaths? It’s amazing how long those moments are in the two inhalations and two exhalations. In those moments, can I observe my entire being? Can I honestly question if this pose is hurting me or challenging me? Can I observe if I am trying to escape discomfort instead of just being still with it? Can I use my breath to find peace in those moments of intensity?

And, if I can start to do that on my mat, can I do it off my mat?

The true power of a yin practice has made itself evident to me off of my yoga mat.I am able to observe myself in tense moments and ground down before having an emotional response.

I am better able to connect better to stillness and observe myself and others.

I am able to be in longer stretches of time without searching for a distraction or looking to escape uncomfortable moments.

I still have so much work to do though and yin keeps me honest to that work. The moment I think I am mastering stillness, I just need to drop in to Dragon pose and observe how anxious my mind flares up.

I created this 60 minute Intro to Yin Yoga video to share with you. Props that will be helpful are a few blankets or towels and a set of blocks. If you do not have blocks, try using some heavy books (The Harry Potter ones work great for substitute blocks. *Magic*). I know 60 minutes can feel like a long time to commit to a home yoga practice. However, if you know that you need to work on finding stillness, finding peace amongst discomfort or working deep into certain areas of the body, then it is worth it to carve out some time for yourself and commit to this important work.

I hope it will be helpful to you. It has been transformational for me and I am therefore required to share it. Thank-you so much to Lisa Aniello for sharing your teachings and experience with me and forever changing my yoga practice.