I started practicing yoga in 2001. A bit by accident. I was a member of the YMCA in Louisville. I had been curious about yoga for a long time, so I finally went to one of their regularly scheduled classes. I walked in to what felt like a clique – or maybe even a cult. I had no idea what Ashtanga Yoga was or who Pattabhi Jois was – but the teacher talked about him a lot. I felt like an outsider. The people who were there had been practicing together for years. It was a small, intimate group of people. All of them were bendy and flexible in ways that I could only dream of. I couldn’t do any of the movements. At the end, we laid down in Savasana, and I’m pretty sure that was the only pose I did well that night.
For some strange reason, I went back. And back. And back. Maybe because at that time in my life I was extremely competitive and I wasn’t going to let them beat me. Maybe it was because I loved a good challenge. Or maybe it was because after a few classes, I started to notice a difference in the way my body felt.
You see, I have scoliosis. The S-shape kind of scoliosis. And starting in my 30’s, I started to have chronic back pain. It was slow to start. But once it started, it never went away. Yoga seemed to make it bearable. Years after I started doing yoga, I would regularly proclaim that if it wasn’t for yoga, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. I still believe that to be true today. I practiced for 16 years and kept the pain steady, never letting it get any worse. But it never got any better either. Until 2017. That’s when I discovered Yin Yoga.
I had taken a couple of Yin classes over the years. But it was boring. Slow. Not at all what I had come to know as yoga: flowing, moving, challenging. It was quiet, still, static, and well…… quite simply boring. But no one had ever explained to me what I was doing or, more importantly, why I was doing it.
In 2017, I took a 3-week immersive yoga teacher training course. It was there that I discovered Yin. It was there that someone explained the practice of Yin and what it was doing to the tissues of my body. It was there that my life changed forever. I was intrigued by the science of Yin. And I also became intrigued by the challenge. This was a different Yin than I had experienced before. It was difficult, intense. I started to practice every day so that I could learn to teach it. It was during this period of daily practice that something happened. One morning while bending over in my closet, I stopped. I stopped because something was wrong. Something was missing. I felt strangely odd. My pain! My 20-year back pain! It was gone.
When you live with chronic pain, the pain becomes part of you. It is with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You never go anywhere without it. I had assumed that because of my curved spine, I was destined to live with back pain. And if I could manage it through yoga, then I should be grateful. But what if I could do more than manage it? What if I could eliminate it? Two weeks – that’s all – just two weeks – that’s how long I’d been practicing Yin daily. I’d changed my body more in two weeks than I had in 16 years.
Since 2017, I’ve taken an additional 100 hours of teacher training in Yin. I dove into the science and the anatomy of the practice because I want to know what’s happening inside my body. I want to know why this works so that I can use it to help others. I realize that pain has a lot of different origins and that Yin isn’t going to fix everyone. But I believe it can fix a lot of people.
That’s my Why. When people ask why Yin, it’s because it changed my life.
For all you geeks like me, stay tuned and I’ll share some of the science behind the practice.