I am a mover. I love tough workouts and sweating and pushing myself so that at the end of the activity I feel “spent.” However, through reading countless articles on fitness, recovery and health, as well as my work on mindfulness and breathing, I have seen how useful less intense, calming exercises can be for body recovery, in addition to exercising the other major component of the body, specifically the mind.
I was introduced to Yin Yoga by a friend and mentor of mine named Magen Banwart. Magen is a health counselor and weight-loss specialist for women and men in New York City. She claims that Yin Yoga is “the key to staying youthful and vibrant.” She was also a coveted teacher of the bar method at Physique 57 and Exhale Spa and now teaches her own method around the City and the Hamptons. People are just attracted to her. She has this captivating aura about her and she just draws you in.
When you take her classes, you are put into somewhat of a trance; she makes you work hard but for some reason you laugh the whole way through. She is a seasoned and transformative teacher.
She introduced me to Yin Yoga and through countless classes I have been sold on the practice and have learned to find benefits in the stillness; it has become a great supplement to my boxing, running, pilates, golf and tennis.
Yin Yoga can be defined as the ‘Yin’ to your ‘Yang’ yoga practice or workout. Others categorize it as yoga for the joints rather than the muscles, focusing on the hips, pelvis, lower spine and connective tissues. Many crave the stillness of the postures and the meditative aspect of holding the poses for extended periods of time. The impact can be felt not only in the body but also the mind.
I now crave yin yoga class. My favorite poses are Open Lizard (great for tight hips) and Snail (my brothers used to hold my legs over my head to torture me so while in this pose I am always drawn back to my childhood memories and I can’t help but smile). I also love the Kidney Meridian Line series that is a great hip, hamstring and spinal sequence. This detoxifies the area (without doing a cleanse) that is located along the kidney meridian lines and opens up (and clear out) the back. Blockages anywhere in the body can create anxiety, depression, stress and more specific body issues such as bloating, digestive issues and pain. Key to all of these poses is deep belly breathing and not taking them so seriously. Just let go and enjoy.
I bring friends who are not used to this type of exercise and they always leave not only feeling limber and rejuvenated but also with a whole new assortment of ‘wellness’ knowledge. During some poses we simply listen to our breathing, but during others, the teacher (or Magen if you are lucky) will discuss goals, resolutions, and many connections between mindfulness and yin yoga. Even during this practice, mindfulness is important. Listening to your body in a non-judgmental way; staying on your mat, or blanket and not judging where your body is, not comparing yourself to your neighbor’s body and being proud of your accomplishments in class can create an inner happiness and contentment that can carry into the rest of your day. If you can practice deep breathing and letting go for the class hour, those lessons transcend into the next activity for the day. Sometimes the hardest part is just being and letting go of the stigma that to workout you need to be huffing and puffing. That is when you see the biggest transformations.