I've been practicing yoga on and off for about ten years now, and while I won't call myself a yogi (yet - that's what 2015 is for), I will say that I am pretty familiar with most types of yoga. However, after I was looking through my Ultimate Yogi DVD set, I noticed one of the classes is called Yin Yoga. I wasn't really sure what it was, so I popped it in for my Sunday practice. Wow. It was yoga unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It was one of the most calming, meditative, relaxing yoga classes I've ever done. It felt amazing. My body felt jelly afterwards, but in a good way, all my tightness (tightness I didn't even realize I had) was gone, my mind was clear, and I felt incredibly calm.
Mind, Body, Green has a great explanation of what Yin Yoga is:
Yin Yoga postures are more passive postures, mainly on the floor and the majority of postures equal only about three dozen or so, much less than the more popular yang like practices. Yin Yoga is unique in that you are asked to relax in the posture, soften the muscle and move closer to the bone. While yang-like yoga practices are more superficial, Yin offers a much deeper access to the body. It is not uncommon to see postures held for three to five minutes, even 20 minutes at a time.
Before I started my yoga practice on Sunday, I was feeling slightly irritated, a bit anxious, and not in the best of moods. Work was back in full swing from the holiday break, traffic on the roads was once again congested and slow moving, and a routine and schedule that wasn't my own was back in place. Outside forces were starting to pick at me and I was just feeling a little negatively wired. But after an hour of Yin Yoga I felt the complete opposite of when I started.
I can't help but keep recommending The Ultimate Yogi DVD series enough. I've gone through many, many yoga DVDs and classes and this is by far my absolute favorite. The hour yin class consisted of maybe 10 different poses and as I got further into the class I slipped into a calm and meditative state I don't think I've ever experienced. Everything melted away as I melted into each pose.
"We're not interested at all in exploring the theory of yoga. We're interested in exploring the experience of yoga. Pay attention to the experience you're having, because that experience is the greatest teacher." - Travis Eliot
After the practice I thought how great these poses would be for stretching after long runs. Most of the poses got deep into my hips or hamstrings and ongoing tightness was gone by the end of the hour. I also thought how yin yoga would be a great starting point for people who don't feel comfortable doing asanas yet, but really want to start practicing yoga. Most yin poses are seated and you never break a sweat. They're not crazy wide-legged stretches or wrapping one foot around your head - these poses are doable for all levels and I think a great intro into doing yoga.
I sometimes get trapped in the idea that unless I'm breaking a sweat or breathing hard I'm not doing anything beneficial for my body. I need to get out of that thought pattern and understand that focusing on the little things - a deep stretch, consistent breathing, and a clear mind are just as important as keeping my heart rate up. Sometimes we just need to be enveloped in a giant bear hug to feel better, and that's exactly what yin yoga did for me.