It starts with an invite into a warm, candlelit room. Then you’re encouraged to lie down and stay a while. You’re given a bolster, a blanket and a slightly torturous-looking block and strap to play with. Using your props, your teacher guides you through a series of simple but delicious stretches. They’re so simple, in fact, you can do most of the class with your eyes closed. You breathe deeper, enjoy a rest, then float back out more at peace with yourself and the world. It sounds like the kind of date you want to take yourself on, no? The good news is, you can.
Yin yoga is experiencing an unprecedented level of popularity and can now be found on almost every yoga studio timetable. Even the Bikram yogis, who put themselves through a 90-minute practice in a sweltering 40-degree room, are getting on board with this gentle, nourishing style.
Is Yin for me?
Yin Yoga classes are open to all levels and are especially great for athletes and gym junkies because the practice works with the body’s fascia, or connective tissue, to bring about change and opening in the name of flexibility. Using the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, Yin yoga also supposedly helps stimulate the flow of qi, or energy, in the body, via 12 meridian pathways that relate to the major organs. This is good news for anyone who wants to boost their health and wellness with a little self-care, or really just needs to spend more time stretching.
Where does Yin come from?
Popularised in the United States by master teachers Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers, Yin yoga is not new. Since the beginning of the physical practice of yoga there has been an element of Yin – seated postures held for a long period of time. The style as we know it today involves a collection of poses that target areas of the body most prone to tightness, injury and illness: the spine, hips, pelvis and legs. Of course, there are other poses that work the upper body, but the main focus is on exploring the range of motion available in the joints. To achieve this, you’re encouraged to exert less effort; to keep the muscles relaxed and let the element of time and stillness in the pose do the work for you. It’s literally the Yin to the Yang – both on the mat and off.
Depending on the teacher, you might be left in silence, or there may be a discussion about what’s happening in the body. Whether you feel the effects of the postures as described is irrelevant: there’s no right or wrong way to do a pose, and the postures themselves can be tweaked to work around any kind of past trauma or injuries. It’s very beginner friendly and sometimes like a choose-your-own-adventure-style yoga class.
How are classes run?
Most Yin classes will end with a mini siesta, better known as savasana. Yoga teachers have long figured out that savasana is most people’s favourite time – it’s like the non-GM cherry on a sugar-free, low-fat coconut ice-cream sundae. Savasana offers time to rest, reflect and absorb all the benefits of the practice. For the odd student, it’s also a great chance to catch up on some sleep. However you enjoy it, a good Yin yoga class will leave you feeling balanced, and is a worthy addition to any exercise regime.
Places to do Yin yoga in your city
Stretch Yoga, CBD & Holland Park
The Yoga Centre, CBD
Glide Yoga, Claremont
Megan Gamble is Broadsheet’s ”Movement” columnist. She’s a full-time mum to baby Flynn but likes to squeeze freelance writing and yoga teaching into her busy schedule. She can be found sharing her love for Yin in Melbourne at Yoga Flame Windsor every Sunday at 5pm. If you prefer your yoga a little more Yang (read: hot and sweaty), you can join her at Yoga Corner in Melbourne’s CBD on Mondays at 5.30 and 7pm.