From Oprah’s mouth…

The June 2012 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine features a piece on How Yin Yoga Can Help with achy joints. There’s not a lot to the article – a couple of quotes from yin yoga teachers, one endorsement from a doctor, and three suggested poses – but it might be enough to bring yin yoga to the masses.

Just think of the influence Oprah had on book clubs!

Yin yoga is a fantastic counter-point to the swirl of activity most of us have going on in our lives. It’s a timeout for body and mind, where students get to hang out in postures (like supported fish pictured at right) for several minutes, allowing stillness to take over.

There are lots of yin yoga classes offered at studios in North Vancouver. I teach four regular yin classes a week and friends and fellow teachers I admire teach a bunch more!

 

Why do yin yoga?

Following up on my recent posts about yin yoga (what is is, what to expect in a yin class, and some typical yin poses) and in honour of teaching yin yoga at Body Harmony for the first time today, here’s why I do yin yoga.

The physical benefits of yin yoga are elongated myofascial tissue (a fancy name for muscles and the fascia or connective tissue that surrounds them) and increased mobility through joints, which can prevent degeneration.

My hips feel more mobile after a yin yoga practice… sort of like I could salsa dance out of class! Being in dragon pose for a few minutes, like I’m doing in the photo to the right, is particularly good at getting my hips to salsa – although actually holding dragon often makes me feel more like swearing than dancing 🙂

Yin yoga mostly accesses the body between the knees and shoulders (lots of stretching through the thighs, hips, and spine and wonderful compression and release through the back), but I’ve also found that a yin practice often releases tension in my neck and shoulders. Forward bending postures, like dangling, work wonders for making my neck and shoulders feel looser and more relaxed.

I find the psychological benefits of yin yoga are even more impactful than the physical ones. In addition to the sense of relaxation that comes from hanging out in poses for a few minutes, I’ve also found that settling into that Goldilocks place in a posture, which can be a bit uncomfortable, has helped me settle into discomfort in the rest of my life when I really can’t change the situation.

The philosophy of finding a balance of relaxation and intensity in a posture has aided me in looking for balance in the rest of my life. I find myself asking;

  • “Can I make this more comfortable?” – the yoga equivalent of adding props
  • “Is this focusing on something I want or need?” – the yoga equivalent of identifying the target area
  • “Can I let go of some tension or holding?” – the yoga equivalent of relaxing the target area
  • “Is there anything gained by fretting or being frantic – can I just be?” – the yoga equivalent of settling into a pose, breathing, and letting thoughts go

Perhaps that last question is most important. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to let go of worrying or letting my mind spin, but at least I can be conscious about it.

If you want to experience the benefits of yin yoga for yourself, join me for classes at Body Harmony on Saturdays at 4:30pm and at Bound Lotus on Mondays at 1pm, Tuesdays at 8:15pm, and Fridays at 6:30pm.

Introducing Laura

Born and raised in Richmond, BC, I now live on the North Shore with my husband of 10 years and our small dog.

Laura and Sofie on the rocks at Mosquito CreekI’ve practiced yoga on and off since age 16 and it became an increasingly important part of my life three years ago when I struggled to physically balance running and horseback riding. I took up yin yoga to help loosen my hips and it allowed me to continue both running and riding.

My yin yoga practice quickly became about more than my hips and it began to transform my sense of self and view of the world. I turned to yoga and meditation to help me balance a stressful job and in early 2011 I decided to concentrate on my well-being by taking a leave of absence from work.

While on leave, I continued my meditation and yin practices and also found a wonderful kundalini yoga community. My kundalini practice and the support of teachers and other students within the close-knit North Shore kundalini community inspired me to leave my corporate job and pursue a more healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.

Yoga is an integral part of my journey to integrate all aspects of my life and find balance. I am particularly drawn to the concept that yoga is always “practice,” and not a competition for mastery. I enjoy teaching and sharing knowledge; being a yoga teacher gives me the opportunity to help others with their yoga experience and well-being.

I have experienced the transformational effects of a consistent yoga and meditation practice and want to share that power with others.