We are all familiar with the yin-yang concept of Buddhism, or at least saw the yin-yang tattoo if you are a child of the 90s like myself. This concept is also prevalent in yoga. We are all familiar with yang styles of yoga: Power yoga, hot yoga, Bikram yoga, Ashtanga yoga, etc., but most are not so familiar with the opposite styles of yoga: Yin and Restorative.
Yin and restorative yoga are growing in popularity because people are realizing the importance of being still, which can be the hardest part of life. This cultivation of stillness is what yoga teaches us.
Finding Stillness in Yoga
Music inspires my yoga practice in so many ways-it has inspired a previous article about tapas in yoga where I used inspiration from a Bruce Springsteen song, and there is music that inspires the yin side of my practice. My favorite song that encapsulates the yin of life is “Let’s Be Still” by The Head and the Heart.
Some of the most poignant lyrics truly representing our hectic lives are “the world’s just spinning, a little too fast. If things don’t slow down we might not last, so just for the moment let’s be still.” That is our lives isn’t it?
Who remembers being a little kid when time seemed to drag and you always wanted to be older? You couldn’t wait to turn thirteen, you couldn’t wait to get your driver’s license, you couldn’t wait to graduate. As we become adults, we long for how slow time felt when we were growing up.
How are we going to hold on to these moments, and cultivate slowness, when we can’t even sit still long enough to just breathe? That is where yoga enters our lives. We find stillness by practicing yoga. Yoga teaches us presence and mindfulness.
Even Thich Nhat Hanh, the famous Buddhist monk, teaches us to walk slowly, make tea slow, take a bath slowly. Moving slowly makes time more valuable, peaceful, and easy. It enhances the yin of our lives that helps when the yang gets too much.
Balancing the Yin and Yang
When our yang is high, or we run on anxious thoughts, we begin to run in circles like The Head and the Heart sing about. Those thoughts circle in our brain like how our lives circle around the sun. Anxious thoughts keep us from being still and from living in the moment.
When we neglect the yin side of our life, our day-to-day activities also seem to speed up our lives around the sun—adding more days where we feel like we're just going through the motions, continuously living in cirles. This is why we need Yin or Restorative yoga more than ever.
Why Yin and Restorative Yoga are Both Important
When we step into a Yin or Restorative class, we focus on the pose, the moment, the feelings. In Yin and Restorative yoga, we hold each pose for anywhere from one to five minutes so our bodies and brains can melt and we feel ourselves truly immersed in the moment.
We use props to restore our bodies back to their natural state, or we go without props to really feel the stretch and challenge of the pose. This way, these classes also teach us how to be comfortably uncomfortable and how to deal with the discomfort of life.
By the end of class—and more so with a regular practice—we learn how to be still in the discomfort. If you have ever taken a Yin or Restorative-style class, you know how big a difference that hour can make. You come in all wired and hyped up, then by the end of class, you are grounded and at ease. You have learned how to be still, at least for a little while.
So next time you are wanting to be still, even just for a minute, put on “Let’s Be Still.” Find a comfy seat, put your legs up the wall, put on the music, and breathe.
Breathe in the moment. Breathe out the excess energy. Cultivate your inner yin and reap the benefits of being still.