There are two principles that differentiate yin practice from more yang (more dynamic) approaches to yoga: holding poses for longer (at least several minutes) and keeping the muscles relaxed to gently stress (load) the connective tissues around the joints. Another important aspect of Yin yoga is to be still and really listen (feel), to connect rather than disconnect, to allow your experience to unfold rather than trying to fix it or change it.
Yin Yoga practice has transformative effects on body and mind. The gentle but consistent stimulation of the connective tissue encourages long-term health and flexibility of the joints, recharges the energetic system of the body and naturally draws the mind inward into a relaxed, meditative state. It also prepares the body and mind for longer meditation practices. Yin yoga integrates the yogic practices from India, with Chinese meridian theory and Buddhist mindfulness practices into a wholesome way to bring health, vitality and wakefulness into your daily life.
My fascination with Yin yoga began in 2011, with a desire to slow down. I must confess, Yin yoga for me was not love at first sight, but it gets under your skin and once I felt the benefits - the greater openness in the body, higher energy levels and clearer mind, it kept me returning to this practice on a daily bases.
Dynamic, active, constantly changing, the flowing and moving part of life - that's Yang energy. The passive, silent, deep, allowing, deeper, mystical and observing part of life - that's Yin energy. The harmony lies in the balance of these two energies.
The Yin and Yang practice bring together the two sides of the whole - the quality of chi (lifeforce, energy) is enhanced by using the Yin practice to create space, acceptance and wakefulness with an unhurried and unambitious attitude; then bringing the mindful attitude into a more active, flowing Yang practice improves the mobility of chi.
My Yin-Yang classes are a fusion of passive Yin hold, followed by a slow mindful flow through sun salutes and creative sequences of poses that complement the Yin part of the practice. The class often including some breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation.
To go to the very roots of Sanskrit, then one way to interpret the word Vinyasa is "to put in a special way": vi - "in a speacial way" and nyasa - "to put". Vinyasa practice arises out of the Sun Salutations, a very well tested way of opening and energizing the body, where breath and movement are seamlessly united in such a way that each action encourages the other. Vinyasa is often translated into English as Flow Yoga - one posture (asana) followed by another in a orderly manner, leading to a balanced and complete feeling at the end of the practice. Another meaning for Vinyasa is "breath movement system", which means that the emphasis of this practice is to establish a rhythm and flow of movement that arises out of your breathing, the expansion, growth and inspiration of the inhalation; the compression, letting go and surrender of the exhalation. This kind of deep and controlled breathing brings more oxygen to the cells, while releasing more carbon dioxide not by speeding up the heart, by improving your breathing habits.
My Vinyasa classes tend to be a creative flow through asanas focusing on alignment and breath, combining movement and stillness, aiming at creating strength without tension and motion without rushing. I tend to be precise and detailed in my instructions while fully acknowledging that all bodies are different, so there are plenty of room for you to adjust the poses to suit your body. I do like to kindly offer challenges for those who are up to it, but I'm never too serious about my practice or yoga or life in general.
SLOW FLOW is a gentle, mellow, slower paced Vinyasa class. "Gentle is the new advanced" - is a term that is circling around the yoga world, meaning that as our lives speed up there is a need for practices that remind us to slow down, to drop the chase, to feel into the integrity of each movement and to connect. A slow flow class combines restorative and Yin postures with gentle vinyasa sequences.
It's R&R (Relax & Renew) on the mat. Minimum effort on your part with the maximum benefit for the body and mind. Using props and support, so that you can stay in poses for longer without any strain or effort, totally surrendering to gravity and letting everything drop. It's hitting a "pause" button to breathe more deeply, while the restorative yoga poses (asanas) gently open the body in a un-rushed and gentle manner, helping us to learn to relax and rest deeply and completely. During this kind of deep relaxation, all the organ systems of the body are benefited, the mind slows down, the breathing finds it's natural rhythm.
I was "initiated" into a meditation practice through S.N. Goenka's Vipassana Meditation in 2007 when I did my first 10-day meditation sit. Today my personal practice is mostly influenced and inspired by Adyashanti and what he calls "True Meditation". He says: True meditation has no direction or goal. All methods aiming at achieving a certain state of mind are limited, impermanent, and conditioned. Fascination with states leads only to bondage and dependency. True meditation is abidance as primordial awareness. True meditation appears in consciousness spontaneously when awareness is not being manipulated or controlled. When you first start to meditate, you notice that attention is often being held captive by focus on some object: on thoughts, bodily sensations, emotions, memories, sounds, etc. In true meditation all objects (thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, etc.) are left to their natural functioning. This means that no effort should be made to focus on, manipulate, control, or suppress any object of awareness. In true meditation the emphasis is on being awareness; not on being aware of objects, but on resting as primordial awareness itself. As you gently relax into awareness, into listening, the mind’s compulsive contraction around objects will fade. An attitude of open receptivity, free of any goal or anticipation, will facilitate the presence of silence and stillness to be revealed as your natural condition. As you rest into stillness more profoundly, awareness becomes free of the mind’s compulsive control, contractions, and identifications.
I am trying to bring this kind of awareness into whatever I do (or teach) - be it meditation, a dynamic flow practice or washing the dishes at home. I use techniques (such as counting the breath or reciting a mantra), when the mind is especially scattered or ungrounded, but I lean towards less and less technique and more being with what is.