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Yin Yoga: Beyond Daily Practice

Like two sides of the same coin, yin and yang cannot exist without the other. It’s about dualism, the interconnected and interdependent nature of the world. To say yang, it must be in the context of something more yin, and vice versa.

For example, in our daily lives, we think, we walk, we talk, we work, that is yang. And when we take a break, focus on our breath, stand still, or sleep, that is the yin side. Balance is found when there are both yin and yang present in our life.

The more common form of yoga today is yang yoga, which focuses on muscles and flexibility. Yin yoga, on the other hand, is a deep and meditative practice, getting the muscles to relax while stressing the deeper connective tissues like the fascia, ligaments, joints and bones. So this is an invitation to connect with yourself through yin yoga.

Discovering “the other side of yoga”

“Yin yoga is a specific practice, like a branch of yoga,” shares Đinh Nữ Thùy Trang, founder of Yin Yoga Saigon. “People only know it after a period of practicing yoga in general. I do yoga just like everyone else. After practicing for a while, duyên [fate] leads me here.”

Yin yoga came to Vietnam around five years ago. And while yang yoga is a common practice here, yin might not be for everyone, partly because of its slowness.

It takes as much time as the usual yang yoga session — roughly one hour — but yin has fewer poses, with slower movements. By slowing your breath and marinating your body in the poses for a few minutes, you’ll learn how to relax while stressing your muscles. To let the heart be heavier than the head, Trang said in a soft voice while leading a session on YouTuber.

Simultaneously with learning how to let go of the hardness in every corner of your body, you’ll learn how to turn inward and tune into your body and your mind. The fact that when we do yin, we close our eyes means we close the path to the outside, gives us the chance to sense our insides.” Trang points.

In my first attempt with yin, it was unbearable at first. The slowness of poses is so delicate and strangely tight in my muscles. It was a relief knowing that I could let go of the pressure of doing it right, and just be with my body’s limitations. It feels like I can take care of the soreness by observing and accepting what’s going inside of me. At some point, I lost track of time, perhaps I was really staying in the present, getting to know what is inside me at that moment.

Slowing down

“The yoga that everyone knows today is like a form of exercise,” Trang says. “People usually only focus on training their body. Therefore, beginners are easily trapped with certain thoughts and prejudices of practicing. For example, they believe that it is necessary to move well, or to acquire certain postures and achievements. Then it's like a race with others or with themselves when they don’t see improvement.”

Yin classes start off with slowness and gentleness. On Trang's YouTube videos, she reminds people to notice their feelings in body and mind, and accept whatever comes up. She calls out the feelings that the participants might feel in order to help them acknowledge the sensations.

Trang explains: “For example when you feel stressed or your body hurts, one way to work with it is just staying with it. You can let go of your bodies, sink your consciousness into that pain. Then the pain will go away. We can see that the pain is just an interpretation of consciousness. If we switch to another consciousness, another perspective, then the pain is no longer there, or the pain could still be there but we won't react to it the same way that we used to. It's like separating ourselves from that pain and stress.

“The yoga I used to learn is all about practicing to be better or to achieve certain success. But with yin, I learn to accept what I have, what I am at the moment.”

Nurturing our souls

More than just a daily practice to nurture oneself in life, yin yoga is an experience of opening up inside. By slowing down, I can see things more clearly, within my body, in my head, even in my heart.

Trang shares: “One time in another teacher’s yin class, I burst into tears. The memorable thing is that I had no idea why I was crying. It was so surprising and my tears flowed from the beginning till the end of the class. At the end when we were taking pictures with the teacher, my eyes were all puffy."

Perhaps in that moment of slowing down, Trang’s emotion was released. I experienced a similar thing, but not quite as dramatic. One time in a yin session, I fell asleep. It was what my body needed at that time, and I tried to be at peace with that reaction. Besides accepting how our body feels, yin also asks us to be patient and accept our real feelings, too.

So this is an invitation to connect with yourself. Because with yin, there's no rush to be excellent. Take it easy, hold space for yourself everyday, and take care of yourself mentally and physically.

[Photos courtesy of Trang.] 

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