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Get Grounded with Yin Yoga

Yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, is one of the world’s oldest forms of holistic medicine that is still widely used today. Ayurvedic medicine is based on the five elements (space, water, earth, fire, and air). Combinations of the elements result in three doshas – kapha, pitta, and vata. We each have a unique ratio of the three doshas, with one that is more prevalent. 

This time of year, you may experience an excess of vata energy. Vata is comprised of the elements of air and space, and is characterized by dryness, mobility, lightness, and coolness. Engaging in nourishing and grounding practices is a great way to bring some balance during times of excess vata. 

Yin is a form of yoga that allows for stillness, nourishes the tissues of your body, increases body awareness, and provides a sense of being grounded. In yin yoga, we hold in stretches for three to five minutes to target the body’s connective tissues, such as fascia, ligaments, and tendons. Just like you work the muscles in other forms of exercise, yin stresses the connective tissues. Tissues that are short, contracted, and stiff, need to be stressed to maintain optimal health and regain natural ranges of motion. By exercising these denser tissues, yin helps you to maintain mobility and range of motion in your joints. Yin is a great compliment to yang forms of exercise, and gives us an opportunity to slow down. 

By holding poses for longer periods of time, we can tune into what is happening in the body. You might start to notice areas where you hold tension, experience strain, or have differences from one side to the other. Developing body awareness allows us to pay attention to our daily functional movements, and their effects on the body. For example, if you rely more heavily on one side, you might experience more tightness on that side. 

While quieting the mind can be one of the more challenging parts of being still for long periods of time, practicing yin can help us settle the mind. I encourage my students to give the mind something to do by counting the breath or focusing on any sensations they feel. This helps bring the mind into the present moment, which can be relaxing. 

Being on the floor for yin can help us feel more physically grounded, balancing the sometimes-erratic vata energy. In yin poses, you can allow your body to settle into your mat or any props that you are using. A note of caution for those who are hypermobile: you may need to use props to avoid sustained end-of-range motion, or start with shorter holds to see how your body responds. 

If you’ve never experienced yin yoga, it can be helpful to start with private classes. Firefly’s Yoga for the Desk Worker five-class series can be done from the comfort of your own home using Zoom. If you sit at a desk working on the computer all day, or spend a lot of time in the car driving, this one-on-one yoga series is for you. The series is designed to help relieve an achy back, release tension from areas of the body that are consistently tight, improve mobility and flexibility, and bring strength back to areas that are under-utilized. ​You can purchase the series for $295 here

I teach a weekly group vinyasa-yin combo class (half hour of each yoga style) on Wednesdays via Zoom at 11:30 a.m. MT that can be purchased for $15 for a single class or $100 for a 10-class pack. If you live in Colorado, I teach in-person yin classes weekly at True Yoga in Evergreen on Thursdays at 4:00 p.m. MT. I hope to see you at a class.

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