Yoga: looking for yin in all the wrong places

I need more zen in my life. That’s why I tried Yin Yoga, described as “a slow-paced style that has a powerful meditative element and long holds of floor poses.” Yin Yoga looked like a better way to find inner calm through exercise than the power-yoga style — plus it was appropriate for all levels of students.

Yoga baggage

I’ve attended yoga classes off and on for years, accumulating my share of yoga baggage. For example, in one of my first experiences, listed as a Level 1/2 class, I had the misfortune of situating myself between two rather advanced students. When we finally ended a taxing vinyasa series and were allowed to assume the corpse pose, or whatever pose we found relaxing, I was grateful to lie still. Although I was supposed to be “dead,” it was hard not to peek at the woman to my left. She hoisted herself up into a headstand.




Breaking yet another yoga guideline, I compared her practice to mine. And deemed her a showoff. There she was, exhibiting superior balance and strength in front of me, your basic dead person. I felt as inferior as a corpse could.

I continued feeling incompetent at another yoga studio. Even though I knew my alignment in the triangle pose was slightly off, I couldn’t help but take it personally when the studio owner stood next to me and announced in a loud voice that “some of us need to take private lessons before we’re ready to attend group classes.”



“Hot yoga” was no better. If the man in front of me had been young and fit, I would have been fine when he took off his shirt. As it was, though, he was neither. Plus there was a lot of sweating. Let’s leave it at that.

But enough time had passed that I was willing to try yoga again. So I opted for Yin Yoga. By now I was familiar with the general etiquette: bring your own mat, leave your shoes at the door, enter quietly and gather your props such as blankets, blocks, etc. Sit cross-legged and assume a meditative posture while you wait for class to begin. Don’t chat.

So far, so good.

Yoga yin and yang

Our teacher came in. She seemed nice, not too flaky. Explained we’d be holding some poses for longer than usual, that our job was to relax into the stretch, to settle in. This was the yin. It was the opposite of the yang. The yang, as she described it, was the hurry, the getting things done, the constant activity. We were here to balance that out, to experience the yin.

No doubt about it, I’m more of a yang type. But finding balance sounded good to me, so I was all in for the yin.

We started the class lying down with a bolster under our knees. “Feel the earth. Feel it supporting you. Sink into the earth,” our instructor said.

I couldn’t silence the ongoing evaluation inside my head: Does yoga teacher training cover how to say things like this? It seems as though every class I’ve attended has included commentary that would not make sense in the world outside of yoga.

I followed the instructions and enjoyed a restful class, but after an hour and a half I emerged with the sense that now I needed to go and work out. That was the yang talking again.

I know I need balance in my life, but Yin Yoga is not likely to help me find it. I’m not even sure I like yin-focused exercise, given the limited time I have to work out: slowing down is important, but it doesn’t burn calories. Maybe I need to look for yin somewhere else.

That’s why I started taking a class on meditation. I’ll write about it in a future post!




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