Another group activity today, this time: a Yin yoga workshop.
Why all the group activities, you might be wondering? After all, isn’t this an INTROVERT’S Year of Fun?
It’s true, as an introvert I do value my alone time. Oh boy do I value it. And if I don’t get enough of it, yes, I become a grumpy, tired and all around unpleasant person to be around. Which works out because then I can have my alone time again.
But one thing I have become aware of in this Year of Fun (also, can you believe we’re nearly half way through?) is that I ALSO get a lot from group activities.
That is, I get a lot from certain group activities. In fact my range of pleasure from group activities is incredibly limited, but it’s also incredibly intense.
Like a laser beam of fun, rather than a ceiling light.
One thing that made me realise that I ought to give more group settings a try is being in ceremony back in Peru. I LOVED that intimate group setting.
Just being in a circle in a dark room that smelled nice probably did a lot for me.
However, you’re also probably aware by now of some of the groups that haven’t been to my liking, notably the intense and arguably unfriendly Charleston gang, as well as the happy clappy hippies of the holotropic breathwork. Not for me.
So this week I decided a yoga workshop, a yin one at that, would be more to my taste.
For one, it was an activity I was already familiar with.
For two, it was going to be in a small group, I had guessed less than 10.
Plus it checked off my classic introvert-friendly time limit of 2 hours. Perfect.
What is Yin Yoga?
All I knew before I went was that Yin Yoga is… slow. Like super slow. You hold poses for minutes at a time. Minutes!
And just because it’s slow, doesn’t make it easy… Far from it. You could say Yin Yoga is like a workout for the mind.
The term “yin yoga” comes from the Taoist tradition. You might have come across the concept of Yin Yang:
In yoga terms, Yang relates to movement, often repetitive movement, creating heat in the body. Yin is about finding stillness and cooling the body down.
Naturally, you’ll want to find a balance of these two.. elements. I’m definitely a more Yang type of person, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. A redhead, with a firey temper to match, an Aries with lots of fire in my astrological birth chart (if that means anything to you…) and generally all about passion and action.
So I figured a bit of Yin on a Sunday afternoon sounded like a jolly good antidote to all this firey stuff.
Even if you take out all that fire element nonsense, you’re left with a practise that benefits us on a very real, very physical level. One metaphor I’ve heard is that there are Yin parts of the body, and Yang parts of the body. Yang parts, like muscles, can be strengthened in short repetitive movements like weight training or sprinting, whereas Yin parts like our connective tissue and fascia, require longer, more consistent pressure.
As far as I understand it, our muscles are encased in fascia, a continuous web of tissue that weaves in and around not only our muscles but also our organs, nerves and lymph system.
And to keep it healthy and springy, we need to keep it hydrated and we need to apply pressure to it with these longer holds.
Then there are the mental benefits.
I know I’m a stickler for fast results. I want everything to move quickly as possible. You could say I’m impatient, which I’ll naturally argue can be a good thing… but it can also cause a lot more stress than I’d like.
So these long poses that you get in for Yin yoga, like sitting with straight legs and stretching yourself over them to reach your toes, might be tolerable for a few breaths.
But when you’re there for a few minutes – that’s when the mind becomes the problem.
I was fascinated to watch my own mind rebel. Of course, it’s partly rebelling because the body is feeling some discomfort, but in many cases it’s other random issues. Like ‘actually this is too easy, when will we go onto something challenging?’ or ‘what’s that smell? I really like it. Is it palo santo? What a coincidence, I just bought some! I’ll make a note to ask the teacher and impress them with my scent knowledge’ or ‘ugh is it raining? I have to walk home and I don’t have an umbrella! Just my luck.’
ALL of this junk (and much, much more) bubbles up, and if you aren’t prepared for it, you could have a pretty difficult time.
Whilst I can’t say it was easy, far from it, I did find it utterly fascinating to see the crap my mind was capable of, and honestly, what my body was capable of. I don’t normally practise much longer than 20 minutes at a time, which isn’t usually enough to see progress in one sitting. But seeing what my body was willing to move into once I’d given it some time and was patient – or more patient than usual – was a real treat.
A bit about the studio
The only beef I had with the studio, called ‘It’s Yoga’ in Brighton, was it’s location. It’s a bit of a trek for me down in Hove, and one that requires a ludicrous amount of hill climbing, which isn’t ideal after a yoga class of any kind, IMO.
Other than that, it was perfect. Like I hoped, it was a small class, 7 of us plus the teacher.
The teacher was very nice, very welcoming and had a real lovely calming energy about him. Plus it was palo santo I smelled, which naturally made me very happy because it reminded me of Dreamglade in Peru.
The only other thing i’ll say is, even though it was billed as a workshop, I felt like it was more like a class. I don’t know what I mean by that, other than I had assumed a class is more ‘follow the moves’ whereas a workshop might be a bit more theory based, a bit more technical, a bit more detailed in terms of instructions.
But as a way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday, I couldn’t have thought of a better way to chill out and unwind, mentally and physically.