Yin Yoga is a gentle style of Yoga with roots in Chinese Medicine. In Yin, unlike traditional Hatha Yoga, poses are held passively with the muscles relaxed and often with the body supported by props. However, the length of time spent in each pose is longer than in a normal Hatha class which results in deep stretching and release.
What is Yin good for?
Yin is particularly good for increasing mobility around potentially stiff joints like the hips and shoulders. It is also great for gently stretching muscles. Perhaps the biggest benefit of Yin Yoga (especially when combined with meditation like Yoga Nidra) is mental calm and well-being. It’s very rare in modern life that people ever really relax without a distraction (books/TVs/phones/wine etc.) and actually allowing the body to really be still and take some rest can be hugely beneficial.
Who is Yin Yoga for?
As it is so gentle Yin is great for pregnant women, older adults, those recovering from injuries… but crucially it’s also really good for people who are young, fit and drawn to really active types of exercise because of its meditative quality and the deep relaxation and stretching it offers. Yin is all about restoring balance, whether that’s loosening tight muscles and joints or offering a peaceful space in a world which is very yang (lots of work, looking after children, fast-paced sports).
Yin with Holly’s Breathing Space Yoga
I am really committed to offering a weekly Yin and Yoga Nidra class because I think that it is so important to find balance and space for self-care in our lives. I teach Yin in a style which borders on Restorative Yoga and is designed for ultimate comfort and relaxation. I provide all mats, bolsters, blocks and blankets. My new Yin course is launching on 5th May and will run weekly on Sundays 7:30-9pm in Little Bookham Village Hall. Drop ins £15, four weeks £48. Any questions just get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org Booking available on my website: www.bookhamyoga.co.uk
Meditation is great in the morning, although equally it can help people get off to sleep. Personally, I like to meditate in the afternoon to avoid the slump and feel rejuvenated. We’re all busy and we have commitments to family, work, friends etc. etc. so choose a time that works for you and stick with it.
Make a place where you feel safe and will be undisturbed
We can’t all build yurts in the garden, but if you have a busy house go into your bedroom and shut the door. Be comfortable. You could use a cushion or stack of blankets to sit on, or lie down on the floor or the bed. Make your own little ritual around getting comfortable, it will trigger your mind to relax and make the meditation easier over time.
Ensure that you are comfortable (at least at first)
At first it can feel like your mind and body are fighting against the meditation. As soon as you close your eyes your nose itches or you start thinking about what to cook for dinner. That’s normal, don’t beat yourself up about it. But learning to sit with a moderate amount of discomfort is really valuable. In life we can’t always be comfortable, sometimes our muscles might ache from being used, or our joints might ache from wear and tear. Coping with small amounts of pain and discomfort is part of life. And the same goes for mental pain, we can’t be happy all the time and things will sometimes not go the way we want them to. When you get started with meditation sit or lie down and be comfortable, but then start to challenge yourself – try sitting crossed legged without moving. If you feel an itch don’t immediately scratch it, if there’s some slight noise in the background don’t flick your eyes open. Sit with those feelings telling you to stop and move beyond them.
Use resources to help you
Well you’ve read this far into the guide so that’s a great start using resources!! And this is really the tip of the iceberg, there are loads of books and websites with advice (please see the resources section of the guide). Different strategies work for different people so hunt around and find what works for you.
Connect with others trying to add this into their lifestyle
I’d love to hear how your meditation journey is progressing and for us all to bond and connect, working towards being happier, healthier individuals. So why not join my Facebook group and keep in touch. You can also use the #hollysbreathingspacemeditation on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. And why not start a little meditation circle with your family or friends?
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a day
We’re human and we’re busy. Adding meditation to your life shouldn’t be a chore like taking the bins out. If you missed your time one day because any number of things intervened (or even just because that day you really did not feel like you could be present in that moment and it just didn’t happen for you) that’s ok. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Do come back to it if you miss day
Don’t be hard on yourself, but do come back to it. Building a new habit takes time and effort, but it’s so worthwhile. Get in touch with others to help keep you motivated. Think about why you wanted to start this in the first place. And be thankful for whatever progress and positive change you’ve already seen in your life since starting.
Enjoy your meditation journey. If you have any questions or want to share you experiences with me, please do!
Sun Salutations are fantastic! They move every muscle and joint, providing a perfect whole body workout, while also warming the body up for other poses (asanas) and increasing strength and flexibility. But they can be the most daunting part of a Yoga class for beginners, so as my next batch of Beginner Courses all start this week here’s my Beginners’ Guide 🙂
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Stand with toes together, heels slightly apart. Inhale and lift arms. If you have low back pain keep a straight back. If not you can squeeze your glutes, draw your abdominals in and lean back as far as comfortable. Then keep your knees soft and bend as much as you need to as you exhale forward into Uttanasana
Uttanasana (Forward Fold)
Don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on the floor with straight legs. Bend your knees, bend them more… bend them so much that you have your hands on the floor. Putting some weight through the hands takes the pressure out of your lower back. Also in this position lead with your heart, not the crown of your head, so you keep your spine long and allow your chest to remain open so you can take full, deep breaths. From here step one foot back and lower the knee coming into a low lunge.
Aswa Sanchalanasana (Low Lunge)
Don’t let the knee come past your toes. If you have any hip injuries keep this position more boxy, if not you can sink your hips forward more coming deeper into the lunge.
There are two options for what comes next:
Any pain in the knees you can double fold your mat under them here. Knees under hips, wrists under shoulders. Spread your fingers. Keep a micro-bend in your elbows so they are not locked out and use your triceps to rotate your inner elbows towards one another.
2. Kumbhakasana (Plank)
Any pain in the wrists in this position come to the forearms.
In plank lower your knees first so you are in Table. From here you have two options:
Bring your right forearm down, then your left forearm down. Make sure your forearms are relatively wide apart. Then keeping your hips lifted lower your chest down in between them.
2. Keeping your elbows into your body, lower your chest and your chin. This will require more upper body strength. If this is not available to you now do not give up hope, the best way to get stronger is to practice the first option, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time you are building the upper body strength you need.
3. From Plank, roll a little forwards. Keep the elbows into the body and lower yourself in one straight line to the floor. If you find yourself doing a belly flop stick to one of the earlier options to protect your back and build strength.
NB: I know it can feel like you just want to be able to do everything straight away, but Yoga practice remains fun and interesting because there is always a challenge to be working towards, your body is beautiful and strong just how it is, so never worry about what anybody else is doing.
If you’ve come down forearm by forearm, you may prefer to lift into Sphinx to keep the flow. Equally if you have low back pain Sphinx gives more support. Only lift as high as feels comfortable. Or if you want a deeper backbend, then you can bring the hands alongside the ribs and lift up a little higher.
From here you can push back into Downward Facing Dog. However, pushing back to Downward Dog can be quite strenuous, so you can come through Table pose, tuck your toes under and lift up into it to begin with.
Ardo Mukta Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
In this pose don’t worry so much about getting the heels down to the mat. Focus on getting along spine, by pushing actively into the hands and sending your chest and belly back towards the thighs. Spread your fingers, push into the knuckles and fingers. Keep your thighs active, gently pushing your heels down.
To begin with get used to lowering your knees down from Downward facing dog and coming into Table. When in table you can take hold of the right/left leg and bring it forward into a low lunge. Make sure you assist your ankle so it comes under your knee.
If you have the flexibility you can step your foot all the way forward between your hands from Downward Dog. If it doesn’t quite make it, take hold of the ankle and bring it forward between the hands.
From your low lunge, you can then step together into a Forward Bend and rise up to Mountain/Tadasana, closing the sequence by bringing your hands to your heart <3
I had to write this while I was fresh with the inspiration and excitement from attending the OM Yoga show this weekend at Alexandra Palace! It was an amazing experience for me and I loved every second of it. I wanted to share a little of what I discovered while at the show and my huge gratitude to all of the wonderful people I met there, learned from and practiced alongside. Especial thanks to the lovely ladies I trained with, always lovely to catch up <3
You Are Full of Loving Energy
I’m quite a scientific person. Before becoming a Yoga Teacher I was a researcher, so when someone makes a statement to me my natural response is ‘what are your three peer-reviewed sources to back that up?’ So when I accidentally wandered into a 1-1 meditation class from Sahaja Yoga Meditation and was told by a blissful, smiling man that I was just made of ‘loving energy’, I was sceptical. Then he asked me to sit down and he slowly guided me through a meditation for self-love, followed by love for everyone. Afterwards he told me to love myself and to let go of any angry thoughts about others. It was a very simple message and it was beautiful in its sincerity. I thought he would then try to sell me something, but instead he gave me a leaflet with information about free meditation classes all around the UK. He was right, inside all of us is the capacity for huge love, great kindness and to let go of anger, I think we all know this, but I suppose for me anyway it didn’t hurt to be reminded of it.
2. You Don’t Have to Be Comfortable All the Time
I had an amazing Yoga Teacher in Dublin, Chris, who sometimes told us ‘you don’t have to be comfortable all the time’ and this message came back to me at the OM show this year. Yoga is so often discussed in relation to healing – relieving back pain, strengthening arthritic joints etc. And yes, Yoga can do wonders for the physical body! But it can also change the way your mind responds to things. In your Yoga pose you never want to feel pain, but learning to accept moderate discomfort is such a valuable life skill which in modern life we seem to have lost. At the show I put my heart and soul into everything, from a workshop on the splits (which I can’t do and may never be able to do… but now I know that’s not the point, the point as Sabi Kerr so wonderfully named the workshop ‘is the journey’) to attempting aerial Yoga poses. I have done so many vinyasas this weekend, but what’s a little discomfort for three of the best days of your life?
Even When You’re in the Wrong Place You Can Still Work on Being Your Best Self
On Sunday I did a workshop with Sarah Ramsden on common Yoga injuries and how to teach to avoid them. I was so interested to learn from Sarah and was looking to then implement practical strategies in my teaching to further support and care for my participants. So you can imagine my surprise when a rather flamboyant man burst onto the stage, told us to all close our eyes and walk around the room. When we’d bumped into three people we then had to dance with the third person. Then we group hugged for an unsociably long time with our eyes closed. The session proceeded with thumping pop/rock playlist, wiggling in Downward Dog and giving a total stranger a massage. It was only when I got home that I realised I had done a workshop by David Sye on ‘The Infamous Yogabeats Revolution’ because I was in the wrong room! As someone who twelve months ago was so anxious I couldn’t make it around Tesco without crying I honestly can’t believe I spent an hour and a half hugging and touching perfect strangers and dancing with my eyes closed. I would argue that David Sye was teaching Yoga for injury at the OM show, just as he teaches it in Israel, Palestine and Syria – Yoga for one of the greatest injuries any of us can suffer from… fear. As he put it: this could be our last day alive, we don’t know, so let’s love and live right now.
Dancer/Natarajasana is my most-loved Yoga balance for so many reasons. It requires and builds flexibility in the hip, back, shoulder and hamstring, tones the legs and builds concentration and focus. But a lot of people feel unnecessarily intimidated by this pose. In this blog I offer modifications to make this pose more accessible while also working towards getting into a deeper variation of the posture.
Bring your weight into one leg and lift the other up in front of you bending at the knee. Bring the bend leg back so the knees are in line. Lift the opposite arm to you lifted knee and balance here.
From Variation 1, reach back with the hand on the same side of the lifted leg and take hold of the inner sole of the foot.
From Variation 2 start to lift the back leg while keeping the hips in line. Allow the body to tilt forward a little, but focus on pushing the back leg into your hand and using this to open the hip and back.
Of course there are more advanced versions that this! But I’m still working towards them myself so like everyone else I stay where feels best for my body until I’m ready to deepen the practice further <3 Why not send me your most divine variation of dancer?