Yin yoga is really popular these days. In a society in which yang energy dominates and silence becomes more scarce (and even uncomfortable), we long for moments to calm down and reconnect with ourselves. And that’s where the yin comes in. We sat down with yoga teacher Skadi about the who’s, what’s and why’s.
Yin classes are very popular right now. Why is that?
‘It’s a nice and comfortabele moment for yourself , because our whole society is very yang (active). There are not that many moments any more in which you can stay really silent. For most people it’s not an option to have a moment of silence and relaxation during work, for example. And we’re all raised with this mentality of work work work, and that makes it for most people really hard to allow themselves to be quiet or do nothing, without feeling guilty. But in a yin class, you have no other option but relax and be quiet. And I think a lot of people feel they really need this and experience how nice it is to have a space where you can allow this. Also on a deeper level, closer to your thoughts and feelings, but also on a physical level, into the connective issue. The time and silence is what we need to get everything straight in our heads.’
But watching tv or listening to music can also be relaxing, right?
‘Yes, but watching television means you’re actively taking information in, so that’s yang. You’re still active with your brain so you can’t turn inwards, into your body and mind. But if you’re sitting on the couch without any external impulses, it’s yin.
What’s the biggest difference between yin and yang?
‘Yin is all about becoming calm and silent, deep stretching and turning inwards. And yang is more about the muscles, the way it looks and aligning your breath with the movement. The focus is mainly on the body, not so much on the effects of yoga, maybe only the after-affects. The focus in yin is more on the emotional, mental, physical and energy bodies. And these four bodies are inextricably intertwined.’
Yin yoga can be very tough, because in our society it feels almost uncomfortable and awkward when all the external impulses disappear, silence comes in and you’re completely focused on yourself.
‘Yes, definitely. For some people it’s not that easy. That’s why in my classes, I always tell why I choose certain postures and what it does for your body. Or I tell little bedtime stories, just to help people relax and help them turn inwards. But it also depends on wether you’re more of a yin or yang person (like in ayurveda you have pitta, kapha or vata) or wether you’re more an introvert or extrovert. But also things like the amount of coffee or sugar you took in that day.’
Is yin yoga beneficial for everybody?
‘Yes, I think so. Actually, most times the people who think they don’t need it, they really need it. And people who like a lot of yin, maybe need some more yang. I recognise this from myself, sometimes when I have a lot of yin energy it slows me down too much. So I need to create more fire in the body and do more yang exercise. So make sure you not only practice the yoga style that you really like doing, but also feel what your body needs at that moment.’
Does it matter if you practice it in the morning or evening?
‘The difference is: in the morning your body and connective issue is still a little stiff, so it’s good to stretch everything and you’ll stretch deeper into the connective issue. And in the evening you’re loosened up from the day so you will end up stretching more into the muscles. But that’s less beneficial for your connective issue, which is really important in yin yoga.’
I hear stress is an often called argument by people who start doing yin yoga.
‘Yes, although stress makes it actually even harder to do yin. But you have to break the circle some time, so this can be a first step. It’s not only the silence in class, but mainly the deep stretches that calm the nervous system which has everything to do with feelings of stress.’
What did yin yoga teach you personally?
‘To look inwards. It helped me seeing things more clearly and recognise things in an earlier stage. It also thought me to take better care of myself, both mentally, physically and emotionally. It makes you start wondering more often and profound what it is that you need. You learn how to follow yourself in stead of following other peoples lead or with what society tells you. You’ll become more honest and open with yourself.’
You wrote a book called ‘Yoga gives space’ (in Dutch), can you explain this?
‘I always compare it with a glass of water with dirt in it. When there’s a lot of movement, the water is completely dirty because the sand moves everywhere. But when you leave the glass on the table, the dirt will fall down to the bottom to stay there laying and the water becomes clear. That’s what also happens during yoga. It creates space in your body and mind, it stimulates the flow of ‘chi’ (energy) and you become more clear, focused and happy. And that state of being also creates more space in your whole life.’