By Ishvari Belanger Yin Yoga is alchemy. For me, Yin Yoga has been a sturdy container to tune my nervous system into a relaxed, open state and then address big feelings floating around in my being. It’s been a transformative space for me to process challenging, difficult emotions and alchemize them into wisdom.
In the simplest terms, yin yoga is a slow, meditative yoga asana practice that involves holding poses for an extended period of time, typically three to seven minutes. Unlike more dynamic forms of yoga asana, like Hatha or Vinyasa, which focus on movement linked with the breath, Yin yoga targets the connective tissues. The Yin Yoga I teach is very informed and inspired by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), working with the meridian and sinew channels within the body.
Although it’s a slow practice, it’s incredibly enlivening. It’s empowering. It refills my cup. After I practice, I often feel rested and refuelled to tackle challenges with integrity.
The postures create a physical sensation of a nourishing stretch, deep release, or a delicious melting relaxation. And they are also working on deeper levels, energetically, emotionally, and mentally, addressing and nourishing, and balancing the elements in the body.
The postures help us to open and see patterns that are moving underground in our bodies and minds. This is what the yin in yin yoga is referring to. Yin is eternally paired with Yang, as night is paired with day. Yin is the darkness, the depths, and the feminine, it is slowness, stillness, and inertia. It is the cold, damp, muddy earth. It is an internal, downward movement. It is our bodies, our emotions, and our humanness. Yin Yoga is the embrace and exploration of the yin, of our own internal depths.
We live in a culture that is constantly looking outward, striving, and hungry for success, comparison, and competition. We’re being inundated with marketing daily, which affects us on some level whether we realize it or not. This agitation collects in the body, taxes our nervous systems, and reinforces conditioned mental patterns. We need to follow the example of the earth and the atmosphere, as time passes naturally collecting tension and pressure, and then releasing it, in a big thunderstorm or a gentle breeze. We need to have a good way to gently release it. To reflect on what we have accumulated in our bodies and minds, and to let go of what we don’t need with discernment. This is the practice.
In my yin yoga classes, I hold space for deep feeling, for stillness, for complexity, and for quietly cracking open. It is about so much more than the posture, this is about descending into our inner world, exploring the darkness, and returning, ready to begin again.