Olivia Clarke : Yoga Teacher

Yin Yoga - A marriage of Chinese Medicine, Yoga Wisdom and Insight Practice

Sphinx pose Lying twisted pose Lying Butterfly pose Lying on bolster

This article is a desire to share a few of the essential features of Yin Yoga. Yin is the mother, the feminine or Shakti. It can be described as stable, unmoving, yielding and hidden. It is lunar, earth centered, cool and dark and has the energy of calm, introspective abiding. Yang is dynamic, fluid, hot and mobile, It is the male aspect of creation, the father or Shiva. In classical Yoga, these two descriptive and mutually dependent qualities will be found within a Yoga class. Sun salutation is the more Yang aspect and holding postures the more Yin aspect.
What distinguishes a Yin class from a Yang class is that its whole emphasis is Yin in nature. There will be no sun salutation, no dynamic movement. We don't work the muscles (which are more Yang in quality). We are looking for what is hidden and more deeply internal, both physically but also psychologically and emotionally. Through this quiet practice feelings, that have long been buried, have an opportunity to surface and be held in the non-judgmental awareness of Loving Kindness. This deep inner listening and knowing of ourselves is profoundly healing and nourishing.

Yin cannot exist without Yang and vice versa. There will always be elements of Yang within a class but they will be very moderate. The practice is predominantly contemplative and meditative. The integration of meridian theory is also central to a Yin Yoga class. You do not have to be an expert on Chinese Medicine. It is a vast subject in itself but it certainly opens up our awareness to self-treatment and how we can design a whole session that is rather like acupuncture but without the needles. For example, one might attend a Yin Yoga class, in winter, the season of rest and tranquility, and focus on postures that stretch and work the Kidney and Bladder Meridians. The Kidneys are our energetic storehouse, the sand in our hourglass or petrol in our tank. They determine overall constitutional health and wellbeing. Winter is often a time we feel tired and run down, so a quiet, nourishing Yin practice will be more beneficial than a hot solar, yang practice.

The Yin meridians are found on the front aspect of the body and are concentrated in the lower body. Yin is deeply internal, connected to our core softness, out breath and capacity to let go and surrender. The attitudinal approach is one of non-doing and non-striving. We simply focus on the barometer of our breath and give ourselves to gravity. Yin invites us to calm down, slow down and be still. Stillness is the essential feature in this practice. It is a very dynamic and alive stillness, vivid and bright, an ideal portal for Mindfulness Meditation or Insight practice.

Yin Yoga focuses on the connective tissues that form our joints. As we get older, physical wellbeing, longevity and ease of movement are dependent on the flexibility of our joints. Yin Yoga focuses on the rehabilitation of our joints and there are 3 important considerations: As we come into a posture or shape, we come to an appropriate edge, working sensitively and non aggressively, anchoring our attention through the breath and coming to a depth of sensation that we can tolerate. The second consideration is to become still and relaxed in the muscles, allowing gravity to have us. The third principle in Yin Yoga is to hold the posture for an extended period of time (usually 3-5 minutes) to attract chi / prana into particular meridian pathways and nourish the joints and connective tissue that we are working. As we come into a posture we may find there is a nourishing, moistening quality in the joint that allows us to surrender more deeply. Equally, we may feel we have come in too deep and need to back off. Certainly, after about 3 minutes there is a deepening of sensation in the body and this provides an opportunity to stay with uncomfortable sensations as they arise and be with them in a non-reactive way, while clearly discerning our appropriate edge.

I could write pages on the subject of Yin yoga. I feel deeply passionate about its healing qualities. I am now a mother of two young children and I'm getting older. This quiet practice is what nourishes me when I feel run down and brings me back to that still place inside, when life has become too yang in nature. Honoring the deep feminine within ourselves and within our world is a great counterbalance to the predominant Yang energy of activity and busyness.

Olivia runs Yin Yoga Days integrating her background in Shiatsu, Buddhism, Chinese Medicine, and Yoga.


Please call for more information: Tel: 01600 740785

or Email: olivia@oliviahealingyoga.co.uk