After being introduced to Yin Yoga by a friend in India, I realised in the first class that it wasn’t like any yoga I’d done before. Having only practiced and taught Vinyasa Flow – a strengthening and fluid style of yoga that had hugely help my surfing strength and technique – I was stoked at the slow pace and focus on restoring the mind and body that Yin offered. And although I love the flow of Vinyassa and helping others find it’s benefits, I’ve learned that it’s important to find that balance between pushing yourself and taking the time to give yourself a break. And that’s where Yin comes in.
After a rollercoaster dance career, a year of surfing, travelling, building a business, and teaching and practising yoga I found myself exhausted – and I mean really and truly exhausted – physically and mentally. You’d think as a yoga teacher that I would have nailed the whole balanced body and life thing, but I’d been all-go, frothing off my life adventure but barely pausing to think or breathe. If, like me, you’re a “go go go” person (you feel invincible after just one coffee, your head starts spinning when a new swell is on the horizon and you get over excited at the thought of going to the one of the best water parks in the world) then it’s likely you’re missing some Yin in your life, no matter how amazing you’re embracing life’s adventure.
Like it or not, a life overloaded with Yang activities – the doing, achieving, building, strengthening, moving activities – is not sustainable if you don’t balance it out with some Yin – the resting, repairing, digesting and restoring activities. Your body will fatigue and injuries will pop up that’ll stop you from doing the things that get you pumped. Yin Yoga was created to help you find a bit more balance in your body, mind and life. It’s often something we overlook or think we’ll do later but never get round to. How many times have you said to yourself “oh, I’ll stretch after my surf ‘cos I know it’s good for me” but then just find yourself celebrating your awesome day with a beer, cup of tea or huge carb-filled meal instead without fulfilling your promise to yourself? It’s hard to make yourself slow down when you’re having so much fun. Trust me, I totally get that, which is why I’ve compiled these reasons why Yin Yoga is an awesome way to give back to your body and mind so you can carry on enjoying the world’s playground for many more years to come.
In Yin Yoga we hold stretching for up to 7 minutes. It may sound like a long time (and it often feels like a long time), but in Yin Yoga the idea is to take all the effort out of the pose so that your muscles completely switch off. The stretch will then leave the muscles and go more into the joints, ligaments and fascia, which are the areas where we often hold stress and are harder to stretch out. With this you get greater range of movement that you can then use to develop turns and manoeuvres on your surfboard.
In general, we don’t give our bodies enough time to repair so by letting the muscles switch off and allowing the head to rest on something, our bodies get the signal that it’s safe to switch from using the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. And that’s the key point here because this is the system that is in charge of repairing, digesting, and restoring. Want to continue surfing and challenge your ability without your body screaming for a break? If that’s a yes, you’ll need to allow your body to repair and rest when you’re not in the water, otherwise it’ll soon be telling you that it’s had enough of being neglected. Believe me, I’ve been there; and it’s really not fun living in a stroppy body which decided to go on strike for a few months because it wasn’t looked after properly.
For most of us, if we feel something we don’t like – both in our bodies and in our hearts – we instantly move away from whatever it is that we think we don’t like. That’s great if you’re pulling your hand out of a burning flame or not hanging out with the douchebag who doesn’t know how to treat a friend nicely, but sometimes we pull away from situations too quickly because we find ourselves reacting to our initial emotions. When we feel anger or fear, sometimes we’ll fly too soon rather than stepping back from the situation emotionally and putting things into perspective.
Yin Yoga gives us the perfect opportunity to put this into practice; the stretches put you at the end of your comfort zone, but rather than pulling out of the pose you’re encouraged to stay there. For 7 minutes. Even though it’s not comfortable – sometime it’s not comfortable in any imaginable way – you’ll begin to realise that it’s actually not that bad. It’s just a feeling in your body and you’ll probably be able to relax throughout the whole 7 minutes, allowing the body to enjoy the benefits afterwards. This is a great mindset to bring to the surf. Sometimes the conditions aren’t great or that douchebag you don’t like keeps dropping in on you, but it’s up to you with how you react to the situation… and the way you react will determine how much your enjoy your session.
All photos courtesy of Bali Fit
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