Check back frequently as we add to this list of Frequently Asked Questions for anyone interested in yoga.
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin is a different kind of yoga than what most people think of when they think of yoga. Yin is a long-held, gravity-based style of yoga that is done almost entirely from the floor. It works the body primarily from the waist to the knees with a concentration on the joints. Yin is all about flexibility, function, and mobility. It is not muscular strength that provides us ease in our day-to-day tasks, but rather mobility in our joints. This is not to say that strength and vinyasa style classes are not important. They most definitely are. You must have both in your life – yin and yang – in order to be balanced. But as we age (and when I say this I mean starting in our teens), our body starts to forfeit the mobility that we had as a child if we don’t use it – which, unless you are a gymnast, most of us don’t. We start sitting in chairs instead of the floor like we did when we were kids. We start sitting in cars and at desks rather than walking and playing outside. And as this becomes the norm, our body starts to change. Muscles and connective tissues will shorten when not being used to their full range of motion, and this shortening may cause pain and stiffness not only in that area, but in areas throughout the entire body. The body is essentially wrapped in layers of saran wrap called fascia. This fascia is what holds everything in place (muscles, bones, organs). And when we stop moving through our full range of motion, the joints essentially get sealed with layers of our facial saran wrap. But through the regular practice of yin, we can start to regain the mobility that we once had. Yin is a beautiful practice that can have almost immediate effects if you commit to it. Benefits include greater range of motion, ease in daily activities, reduction in pain and inflammation, and stiffness.
Who should do yin? Anyone who wants to have greater flexibility / mobility. Anyone suffering from chronic pain with no known cause from an injury/accident. Anyone suffering with arthritis. Anyone who is already flexible and wants to maintain their flexibility. Anyone from the age of 18-100. There are a few contraindications to be aware of: those with hyper mobile joints have a higher risk of injury as do those with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Although if you are in tune to your body you can practice safely as long as you are aware of what your body needs and you don’t push past safe limits. Yin may not be appropriate for people with MS or other nervous system disorders because of the long held stretches that can irritate inflamed nerves.
What are the minimum requirements and what props do you need? The minimum requirement is that you need to be able to get up and down off the floor and be able to move around once you are down there. But if you can’t, that would be a reason to DO yin. You just have to be able to find a safe way to get up and down until your mobility increases. That’s it. If you are stiff and say you can’t touch your toes, then you NEED to do yin. There are no other requirements. As for props, Yin is a prop-heavy practice. We use props to allow us to get into the poses. So, it would be good to have 2 yoga blankets, 2 blocks, 1 bolster and 1 strap.
Is Yin hard?
Yin is simple but not easy. It is an intense class, both physically and mentally. Because it’s done on the floor and we hold the poses for long periods of time (usually 5 minutes), people sometimes get the impression that it’s like a restorative class. It’s not. We work to FEEL something. Something relatively uncomfortable. If you are comfortable, you aren’t doing it right. There should never be pain. But you will be in a state of discomfort for almost an hour – in 5 minute chunks of time, with a bit of recovery between each side and each pose.
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What does it mean when we say Namaste at the end of class?
We typically say Namaste at the end of class with hands in prayer position, thumbs touching the heart center or the third eye. The word is a Sanskrit word meaning “bow to you”. In a fuller sense of the word, it is said from a place of gratitude and of oneness of those in the class – the teacher seeing and acknowledging the divine in each student.
What is the significance of saying OM together in a class? The symbol of OM is the most sacred and common written yoga symbols. It is believed to be the first uttered word of the universe and is said to encompass all the vibrations of the universe. It is the unifying sound and energy that binds us all together.
Why do some of the teachers say the pose names in a different language? Yoga’s traditional language is Sanskrit, an ancient language of India. All of the poses have a traditional Sanskrit name as well as an English translation. So, sometimes you might hear a teacher cue the class using this beautiful Sanskrit language. It may be confusing at first, but after you repeat the poses in practice for a while, you will begin to recognize the words without much effort. An example is: Uttanasana means Standing Forward Fold.
At Body Mind & Sol, we take a functional approach to our practice. What does that mean? There are two approaches to yoga: a functional approach and an aesthetic approach. Think Instagram or any yoga magazine when you think aesthetic. What does the pose LOOK like? Aesthetics is about the striving to achieve the “perfect” pose in the way the body looks. At BMS, we don’t subscribe to that approach. Instead, we practice with function in mind. How does the pose FEEL or function in your body? Every single person in every single class is going to experience every single pose differently. Our only concern is that you experience the pose in a way that feels appropriate and adequate for YOUR body. There is no such thing as a perfect pose in our classes.
What is the purpose of Savasana at the end of class? The last pose of most classes is Savasana, or corpse pose, rest pose. Savasana is the pose of death. It is the death of our practice. It is our opportunity to leave behind anything that no longer serves us and to be reborn to a new opportunity, a new day. Savasana is also the pose where our bodies get to assimilate everything that we did during our practice – organize it, file it, store it away for future use. It is a state of contentment and peace.