Last week, I wrote about my first experience of Hatha Yoga at Namaste Yoga Ashram. This week, I decided to dip my toes into something a little different by attending Yin. Where Hatha Yoga is a full-body experience, putting more physical pressure on the body, Yin is quite the opposite, using slow-paced poses, held up to three minutes at a time.
This was the first time I'd attended a class at Raj's studio in the evening and the atmosphere felt completely different this time. Where the atmosphere during Hatha is peaceful and naturalistic, the atmosphere in the evening is serene and soothing. The blue and purple hues of lighting transform the studio into an oasis of rest: the perfect atmosphere to prepare the mind for the intense experience it's about to undergo. As with Hatha, Yin begins with a period of relaxation. Raj reminds you continually that this is 'Your time' and to treat it as such. This part of the class is a much-needed antidote to the working week - allowing you to reflect, escape your stresses, and most importantly of all, to just breathe.
For those whose primary focus is increasing flexibility and quieting the mind, or if you're simply a beginner, like myself, it's a great alternative to the more challenging Hatha or the intense Ashtanga.
After a busy and emotionally taxing week, attending a yoga class may be the last thing on your mind - but whether you're busy, depressed, stressed or just plain sad, making time for something like Yin in your schedule can be completely transformative. Yin forces you to turn inwards, to observe and examine your own body and mind, to become patient with the practice, and with yourself, and to accept things exactly the way they are. As these principles are the primary foundations of mindfulness and meditation, the whole practice becomes a practice in re-training the mind. In the modern world, we're always switched on - whether it's being on constant alert for problems at work, constantly checking social media posts, worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow, adrenaline courses through our bodies, sending us into 'fight or flight' mode. We don't even know it but being in a perpetually stressed state is the equivalent of constantly awaiting the clutches of a hungry bear: we literally feel our life is on the line, and there's nothing to let our bodies know that we're not in a life-threatening situation, that it's just our thoughts making us feel this way. That doesn't stop our hearts speeding up, nausea building in our chest, or us breaking out in a sweat.
To engage in Yin is, then, a medicine for the body and mind.
That's not to say that there aren't lots of physical benefits to trying Yin. The gentle stretches and asanas target the back, the spine, core strength and the dense connective tissues, such as ligaments and cartilage. Whilst the movements are slow, controlled and limited to the floor, there is still plenty of variety. Whilst Yin includes poses that will be familiar to us all, such as the table pose, we also have the Bhujangasana - or the Cobra pose, which involves laying on your front, with your head and shoulders lifted upwards. Where Hatha involves more of a full body approach, with frequent changes in poses, Yin is deliberately slow and focused. Although not quite as challenging as Hatha, due to being limited to floor work, there are certain poses that require a great sense of awareness and concentration. This is where having Raj as an instructor is especially important. There is currently a slew of online yoga videos, teaching everything from Vinyasa Flow to the Firefly pose, and whilst these are great for people with limited time and resources, you cannot truly learn how to do yoga without the keen eye of an expert. Particularly for people like myself, who struggle with balance and form, Raj provides just the right amount of support and guidance. Whilst he doesn't make you feel self-conscious or interrupt your every movement, he also ensures that you're doing the movements in a way that won't harm your body and helps to correct your movements when you can't see how to yourself. Knowing that there's someone there who wants you to achieve your best and is willing to help you every step of the way, makes a tremendous difference to your experience and progress.
As Raj is still currently offering a fantastic deal, with unlimited yoga classes and a free massage for just £35 a month, now is the best time to start discovering yoga. If your health, mind, and happiness is a priority to you, discovering Yin might just be the ideal first step to a more positive you.
You’ll find Namaste Yoga Ashram at:
98 Prospect Road