Saturday, November 17, 2007
slow down with yin yoga
A few days ago I looked at my calendar and realized, I did NOT overbook myself this weekend! So it will be a pretty quiet, and hopefully relaxing two days. Over the past several weeks (or maybe months!) I've gotten so caught up in schedules and commitments, places to go to, people to see, art shows and exhibits to visit, and workshops to attend -- which are all really fun anyway. And on top of that, papers to write and chapters and articles to read for school After coming down with a cold, I realize my body is telling me, "SLOW DOWN."
I've come to LOVE yin yoga. I have to admit, at first it took some getting used to, with my multi-tasking, Energizer-bunny personality. Yin yoga was quite a departure from the more aerobic nature of vinyasa and power yoga. In yin yoga, restorative stretches are held passively for at least 3 minutes or so. Instead of actively engaging the muscles, we try to relax the muscles as much as possible in order to stretch the deeper, connective tissues, especially around the joints. A lot of the yin yoga stretches focus on the lower back and the hips, where there is a LOT of connective tissue. Keeping the connective tissue flexible through these long stretches will help slow down the hunching and stiffness as we age, as the connective tissues "dry up".
Here are some of my favorite yin stretches:
seal (also called cobra in hatha yoga): a gentle back bend
sleeping swan (also called pigeon): great for opening the hips
shoelace: a nice alternative to sleeping swan, if hips feel extra tight
butterfly: great for stretching and decompressing the spine, especially the lower back
reclining twist: great for releasing toxins, improving digestion and elimination (twisting positions "massage" the internal organs in the abdominal area -- imagine wringing out toxins from your body as you twist!)
and of course, the best one of all: savasana
For more information on yin stretches, see www.yinyoga.com.
And here's a tip that helped me become more patient while holding a yin stretch: choose a nice relaxing CD, and hold the pose for the length of the song--most songs are at least 3 minutes anyway. In between songs, take a moment to move around a little. You'll feel a bit achy after a yin stretch, after being still for several minutes. This achy feeling should go away though.
Remember, in a yin stretch (or any stretch for that matter), you don't want to be in pain. You want to stretch deeply enough to feel that you ARE stretching, but not too deeply that it becomes too intense and you can't be comfortable in it.
With the busy holiday season fast approaching, find time to slow down, breathe, and restore your body, mind, and soul with some yin yoga!
photo taken by Dad, August 2006, Saco River, New Hampshire