Finding Your Yin

Some of you may remember a blog I wrote last year (if not read it here) about every body being different. It was true then and it is still true now but this time I want to elaborate on the theory and how it fits with your yoga practice and in particular how you find the right variation of posture to suit YOUR body- or as I’m calling it, ‘finding your yin.’ 

Every single person in this world is different from everyone else, we may have things in common, but it would be extremely rare to find two people who are 100% the same. Yet we see a picture or an image, perhaps of a yoga posture or a person and we strive in so many ways to look like that depiction, irrespective of how our own bodies are made or what they can achieve at that point in time.

I’m not going to lie, I often see an inspiring yoga picture or posture and I begin to calculate in my head how I might find a way to achieve that as part of my practice, however I also have a number of years of exploring my body and it’s functionality in order to know whether that is or isn’t in fact achievable for me.

It’s also true that different styles of yoga, and in particular some of the more traditional forms often require a posture to be ‘executed’ in a particular way, and I wholeheartedly agree that those traditions should stand, the difficulty is helping our students to a level of awareness of how much is too much for them whilst still sticking to the ‘rules’.

In my recent Yin Yoga teacher training our teacher, Joe Barnett (a senior student and teacher of Paul Grilley) started off by setting the record straight with us as students and as teachers that when a student asks you what something means physiologically within their body (something that more often than not you can’t ACTUALLY see) that it is ok to say you don’t know.

You may think that as yoga teachers we should have the answers to how every posture should feel and look, and whilst we can definitely give our students clarity on the area that we are targeting within a posture or a sequence we can’t FEEL what is happening in your body and that is something that we will never be able to answer for you.

The most important thing that a yoga teacher can remember in their career is that every single body is different, the muscular system, skeletal system, fascia and connective tissue, absolutely everything is built in the same way but is not exactly as you see it in a picture or a diagram, or even as it looks for someone else.  

As students however we crave the knowledge to know that we are doing the ‘right’ thing in order to reap the benefits of our practice, and that’s where the difficulties in being a teacher and a student lie.

We can never truly know what something feels like in someone else’s body, the best we can do is start to teach our students and ourselves to have the awareness and mindfulness and to begin learning our own bodies.

For this reason it is important to try new things, experience the different sensations, understand what your teacher is telling you when they are asking you to feel the asana in a particular part of the body or in a particular way, and if it doesn’t feel right speak up or simply try something different for yourself. Find a teacher that allows you to do what feels right for you, and I don’t mean something that feels easy but something that feels right.

As I begin to teach regular Yin Yoga classes this is something that I will be telling all of my students, explore the posture, listen to the basics and build from there and most importantly don’t watch or try to replicate what you’ve seen in someone else. I have done this before and spent 5 LONG minutes in a posture that did not allow me to reap the benefits that my body needed because I was in a stretch that was too strong and my muscles were not releasing.

Make sure that in every posture, every moment you ‘Find Your Yin’, your comfortable place that allows you to reap the benefits of what you are trying to achieve. Be mindful of how your body feels, truly listen and don’t get caught up in your head. As Joe says – does this posture piss you off just because or because it ACTUALLY hurts? Think about it, take the sensations in and be there in that moment with your own body, no one else’s, in mind.

My Guide to Finding Your Yin:

  • Know what you are targeting in your body;
  • Notice how it feels without inside, not externally;
  • Experiment with what works for YOU;
  • Be still, appreciate each moment;
  • Observe the rebound and all of the good and the bad that comes with it; and
  • Remember your body is different to everyone else’s.