I was first introduced to Yin Yoga while on a retreat in South Africa. We all gathered in the small chapel for our 100th class that week (ok, probably something like our 5th… yoga twice a day can get intense). The instructor told us we were going to try something different. She had us lie on our backs and hug our knees to our chest. For two minutes. I distinctly remember wondering how we were going to make it through an entire class holding each pose for this length of time. Then she said these magical words, “This is the easiest pose we will hold, so enjoy it.”
We proceeded to move through a series of stretching poses, holding each for 2 to 5 minutes. Sometimes it felt amazing. Sometimes it was hell. Holding pigeon for more than 10 breaths really makes you aware of just how much tension you are carrying in your hips.
Ever since that day I have come back to yin yoga. It is essentially a massage for the joints. Holding each pose for so long helps release tension and increase flexibility. I find that my regular practice greatly benefits from this type of yoga, especially when my hips become tight from walking/running. It just hurts so good.
But more than a good stretch or a sense of light torture, yin yoga teaches the art of surrender. In order to hold the poses, you must surrender to the discomfort. The tricky part is not to let yourself out of the moment, not to run away, but to stay with the feeling and breathe into it.
In life there are uncomfortable moments. Our yoga practice teaches us that we can make it through them and come out on the other side ok… different, changed, but ok. When you can breath through pigeon for 5 minutes, sitting through an interview is cake.
If you are new to the concept of yin yoga, try finding a class somewhere in your area (they seem to be few and far between) or you can follow this wonderful video by Esther of Ekhart Yoga: