Let’s get basic
Yin yoga? You might be thinking, ‘There's yang yoga?’ You would be correct and I like the way you think. Yin yoga is a deep, long held, immersive experience. Only you can feel what you feel and think what you think. Yang yoga, or active, for example vinyasa, hot yoga, power or rocket yoga, is more relatable in our Western world. Yang is how most of us live our lives. Waking up to start a 40 hour work week, for some people it might be an 80 hour work week. Maybe it’s simply doing 4 tasks simultaneously, or eating while watching tv or scrolling through social media. It’s not wrong, but we do need balance. Too much yang and we can burn out. Too much yin, however, we get lethargic and lazy. Yin is slow, yang is fast. Yin is night, yang is day. Yin is plastic, yang is elastic.
Remember that yin and yang symbol? It’s called the taijitu. The black swirl with the white dot connected to the white swirl with the black dot? You can’t have yin without yang and vice versa.
I know this seems like a whole blob of information, but bear with me. Yang tissues are the elastic muscular tissue, the superficial power house. It is what moves our bodies and skeletons. Yin tissues are more plastic. They are made up of our fascia and our deep underlying connective tissue and our bone. Yes, our bones. Yang is elastic, yin is plastic.
Still with me?
Principles of Yin
Before we dive even deeper, let’s briefly go over the 3 principles of yin yoga.
Go to your edge. This doesn’t mean your end range of motion. Find a place where you can sit in the target posture, and listen. If you feel sensations initially, you may need to take a moment and allow them to settle before finding another edge. If you can feel it, you are doing it.
Time. It doesn’t matter how deep you are in a pose, what matters in yin is allowing time for your muscles to release, to be able to access those deeper tissues, for the bones to drop, for your body to melt. Some days it takes 2 minutes just to get into a position that feels okay for that day, some days it takes 30 seconds. No matter how long it takes you to find what feels just right, sit with it a little longer. You have probably heard the lovely saying “the pose begins when you want to leave.”
Resolve to stillness. This last principle doesn’t mean FREEZE! It doesn’t mean you cannot wiggle around and move. No. RESOLVE to stillness. Make an effort and an intention to stay with whatever comes up. If you feel pain, DEFINITELY move. If you feel unsafe for whatever reason, get back to your safety. If your mind won’t stop thinking, trying to control it will not make it better. Imagine being like a still lake. Even when there’s a rock thrown in, the ripples will be felt everywhere, but slowly they dissipate. Allow what comes up to come up, learn from it, and release whatever doesn’t serve you.
So why am I sore after yin yoga?
During practice, it might not feel like you’re doing anything. You might not feel that beautiful rush of blood and qi or prana surging through your body where it was compressed for minutes. This is okay! This is what self inquiry and exploration is all about. Knowing your limits, understanding when to seek your next edge, when you need to back off. There is this phenomenon called creep, Bernie Clark and Paul Grilley have articles and videos about this, so if you want more in depth knowledge, definitely give them a Google. Creep is like honey being poured from a jar. When it’s cold, it looks so stiff and it takes SO long to move. When it’s warm it’s almost like water, so easy to access. When we stress our 3 tissues, they will lengthen. This happens in yin over time; over a period of time it could be a few hours to 24 hours. Everybody is different. Every. Body. Is. Different.
Back to yang workouts, for example weightlifting, you might feel sore the next day. You are essentially tearing your muscles microscopically, making you rest that day, allowing your body to repair and build more muscle. Yin yoga tries to surpass the superficial yang muscles, bringing tension and “strain” to ligaments, fascia, and bone. These tissues aren’t as flexible, they’re more plastic. Due to the plasticity, they’ll take longer to reset into your body, adding on to that creep phenomenon.
So how can I stop being sore after a practice?
Recognize if you let your ego control your practice. Did you push yourself too far? Did you care what a posture looks like rather than listening to your body say ‘we’re good here.’? You 4 can practice with intention. Pay attention with intention. Slow, mindful, YIN movements. Our bodies are more fragile during yin, and we should try to take care of them more so they can take care of us. Don’t go so far in a pose or don’t stay in the pose for as long. This is your practice, your body, your life.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out!
I hope to see you on the mat, yogis!