I have a new love: Yin Yoga

On Monday 24 October 2016,  I took my first Yin Yoga class. I had joined a yoga school close to my house (4 minutes walk) and I was trying all the different styles on offer. The class description was Yin Yoga combines aspects of Hatha Yoga, the concept of the meridians in Chinese medicine, Taoist philosophy and Buddhist meditation techniques. Yin Yoga has a positive effect on your organs, immune system, muscles and joints. It was the bit about Buddhist meditation and the muscles and joints which intrigued me seeing as I’m creaking and cracking into middle age now.

During that first class my mind chatter went something like this: ‘ok, we need a lot of props’ and ‘wow the teacher talks a LOT’ (although she had a lovely soothing voice) and ‘oh boy this hurts’ and ‘ouch, oh my God, my muscles are tearing!’ and ‘what the heck is happening to my lumbar area?!’ and so on and so forth. I had done Hatha Restorative but had not really felt this level of discomfort in my body because in Yin Yoga, the positions are held for 3-5 minutes. Sounds relaxing right? Sit or lie on a yoga mat and hold a pose for 3-5 minutes?

Now I must say that as a Kapha person I LOVED that all the poses were done seated or supine on the mat, so no Surya Namaskar (which I still feel resistance to). It’s a passive practice although it turns out passive is not quite how it feels. Turns out the teacher talks you through the poses and all the while brings the focus back to your breath. Physically, you’re stretching stretching, stretching, your fascia and connective tissue around your joints (knees, spine, sacrum, pelvis) and mentally you are focussing on your breath. Then you realise, each breath can take you deeper into the pain, and it’s not actually pain, its discomfort and it’s not killing you. It actually feels like what your body has needed for YEARS. Each breath you are able to go deeper physically and somehow mentally too. Hang on you say to yourself… I’m actually meditating and doing yoga at the same time and I feel great!

The more dynamic forms of yoga I do are the Yang styles, Vinyasa and Astanga. Yin is very complementary to those styles and as I mentioned, is all about stretching the connective tissues, ligaments, bones and joints. Who knew that just sitting and extending your legs in front of you and walking your hands forward until you feel resistance, could feel so damn uncomfortable and so damn wonderful at the same time! I did give myself a neck injury by pushing myself too far in Yin so caution is absolutely needed I’d say especially if like me, you’re hypermobile.

For the last 11 years or so I’ve always said my back feels like it can never be stretched enough and I would beg The Lovely Boyfriend to lean on my back with me in child’s pose, just so I could feel a stretch. Now I know which poses give me the most benefit and I know I will not tear apart (pain is different to discomfort) and I know that the ‘pain’ I feel in my body during Yin practice, is the same discomfort I feel in my life sometimes. But if I breathe into the discomfort and see it for what it is – just discomfort which will pass – I feel space. What a great metaphor for life no?

And my favourite, most beneficial Yin Yoga pose you ask? Probably Ananda Balasana or Happy Baby, because it s t r e t c h e s my lower back, calms my mind and makes me laugh each time.

Have you tried Yin Yoga and if so what benefits are you experiencing? I’m curious to deepen my practice more.

This post is dedicated to my lovely Mandy who is experiencing pain today. Love you doll. 

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Wednesday 23 January

Sleep: I was in bed at 10.40 pm last night and lights out at 11:30. I still couldn’t wake up at 7:00 am.

The Plan: Wednesday
On waking Hot water
Mid-morning (10-11) Dr. Oz’s Quinoa with Prunes Recipe and Ginger Tea
Lunch (12-13) Gingered Aduki Beans (p 106) with Plain Indian Rice (p 129)
Dinner (18:30-19:30) Vegetable Barley Soup (p 188)

The Reality
On waking Hot water
Mid-morning (10-11) Dr. Oz’s Quinoa with Prunes Recipe and Ginger Tea
Lunch (12-13) Gingered Aduki Beans (p 106) with Plain Indian Rice (p 129)
Dinner (18:30-19:30) Vegetable Barley Soup (p 188)

In my defense, I honestly think I am so hungry because it’s freezing outside. I cannot wait for all this nastiness to thaw!

I thought the warm breakfast today would keep me going better, especially as I knew I’d be home late as it’s yoga night. But I actually forgot to make my breakfast last night so I ate a chocolate croissant instead! It is so tough to find healthy food in the canteen. I had a choice of yoghurt with muesli which is what I used to eat before and always regretted; or a chocolate croissant!

Come lunchtime I was hungry and oh boy, that beans recipe did not do it for me. Also because there was too little left. So I supplemented my lunch with a tiny portion of lasagne (non vegetarian) which was absolutely delicious.

In the afternoon I snacked on 3 small biscuits, damn the colleague that kept forcing me to have one 😉

The yoga class was great! We did ujjayi breath exercises.  It is also called “the ocean breath”. Ujjayi is a diaphragmatic breath, which first fills the lower belly, rises to the lower rib cage, and finally moves into the upper chest and throat. Inhalation and exhalation are both done through the nose. The “ocean sound” is created by moving the glottis as air passes in and out. As the throat passage is narrowed so, too, is the airway, the passage of air through which creates a “rushing” sound. The length and speed of the breath is controlled by the diaphragm. It is used for relaxation. When the teacher demonstrated it, it really did sound like the ocean – deep and strong; very cool. It sounded like the beginning of time.

After yoga we did the worst thing: went food shopping hungry. We ended up buying and eating a little bit of sushi, a small portion of crisps, and this prune and walnut thing that I like a lot. When we got home we had the Vegetable Barley Soup I’d made last night and it was really tasteless. I am not impressed with ANY of the recipes from this weeks recipe book, and now I know why I never cooked from it much before even though I refer to its food lists daily. So after dinner we were still dissatisfied and I had a bread and butter sandwich.

Week 3 Review

Week 3 was okay. It was a trifle messier than last week. I felt busier and thus more tired whilst my week wasn’t actually that busy.

The highs and lows in no particular order were:

I lost weight again; according to my iPhone app 0.6kg  or 1.2lbs. My tracking site records a loss of 1.5kg which is what I see on my scales at home too. Don’t get the maths but all I know is I feel lighter and my clothes are a smidgen looser.

Another high, which if I were doing this in order of importance would be joint nr.1 with the above, was that after a two year hiatus I returned to my favourite yoga class. My friend Mandy was talking the other day about how she is ‘in love’ with her yoga teacher and I feel exactly the same about mine. Corinne has the best energy, she is so loving, clear and patient and really keeps an eye on her students. She’s also very grounded and at the risk of sounding like a 15 year old has a figure to die for. Lean with muscle definition. A lot of yoga and pilates teachers are thin, but I find thin with muscle definition beautiful,  good examples of what I think are healthy looking bodies are Jessica Biel and Naomi Campbell.   Maybe one day, I’ll know what thin feels like and then I can start worrying about muscle definition ha!

I noticed I was quite hungry last week; I can only put it down to the freezing temperatures outside. So as on a couple of occasions I succumbed to food that is most definitely kapha increasing (French fries and other deep-fried forbidden foods) I didn’t eat as clean as I did the week before.

I only had one gym workout this week with my trainer, and didn’t get my butt over to the gym for any cardio at all.

I’m logging my sleep every night even though that app I use only (surprisingly accurately) tells you how long you were in bed and how deep your sleep was, I am the worlds biggest snoozer so I actually stay in bed an hour after the alarm goes off. That it does not note! But seriously, I need to go to bed at 10.30 pm at the latest.

Also importantly  I forced myself to go out in the freezing cold at night to see a movie with a girlfriend. Every bone in my body was screaming no but I did it and it was a good thing to do. Especially when the weather is so damp and cold and heavy a kapha needs to take steps to not get lethargic and lazy (like increases like). That means lots of exercise and embracing change and spontaneity.