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Playing the edge in Yin Yoga

 
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Bernie



Joined: 23 Sep 2006
Posts: 1027
Location: Vancouver

PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 12:15 am    Post subject: Playing the edge in Yin Yoga Reply with quote

Recently I have been hearing about Yin Yoga teachers who demand their students go to their final range of motion/deepest edge and stay there, even if sensations are painful or really uncomfortable. This is not my understanding of how to practice Yin Yoga! Pain is never good and being so uncomfortable that you can’t stay at the edge makes no sense either. Rather the edge should be played! We approach the edge, then back off and wait for it to move. If it doesn’t move, great! Stay…no need to go further. In fact, as the graphic below shows, it is neither important nor essential to be at or close to any final edge. As long as there is some stress on the tissues we get benefit.

This graphic is called the “antifragility curve” and is based on the knowledge that all living beings need stress to regain and maintain optimal health. If there is no stress at all (point A), health is low and the tissues atrophy. However, if there is too much stress (going over the edge past, point B), tissues degenerate and damage occurs. Before this happens, thankfully, the body gives us little warnings in the form of pain. Pain or deep discomfort is a sign to back off. As you can see on the graph, you can happily hang out halfway along this curve (point C) and still gain healthy benefits: you don’t have to be near any final edge.

Time is more important than intensity. Go to a place where you feel something but not the most sensation, and then linger longer there, rather that go to the cliff where you won’t be able to easily remain. Yin is allowing…if you have to struggle to stay at your edge, you are not practicing Yin Yoga. Do less; achieve more. Cheers!

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Bernie



Joined: 23 Sep 2006
Posts: 1027
Location: Vancouver

PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 12:20 pm    Post subject: Concern Reply with quote

Recently, I received the following question which relates to the above post, so I thought I would answer it here:

    Bernie - I took a Yin class last night with a teacher supposedly trained by you. The class started with an elevated sacrum on a bolster, followed by shoulder stand and plow. We held this for at least 5 minutes. I was concerned for myself and did not get deeply into plow, feeling unprepared for it. But mostly, it is the other students that concerned me: at least 50% of them were beginners. I woke up with a headache this morning and neck pain. And worried for the other attendants. Was that not dangerous? I would very much value your opinion Bernie on this practice and claims that teachers here and elsewhere do.

Hi! Thanks for writing.

When you ask “Was that not dangerous?” … every pose could be dangerous for some people, even Child’s Pose is not right for some bodies. I would hope every teacher, whether in the yin style or all the yang styles, would teach students how to know when something is too much. Signals include pain and significant discomfort (see the post above). Starting class with an “elevated sacrum on a bolster” seems fine to me…I assume you are referring to a Supported Bridge pose…but even here the students should be taught which sensations to look for that are not appropriate, and to be encouraged to back off or come out of any pose at the first hint of pain.

Plough Pose (called Snail in Yin Yoga) is a fairly advanced posture. I will occasionally offer it to very flexible students (track 3, if you have read my book), but only after preparing for it with postures like Caterpillar and Butterfly. Even then, I will suggest it only if the student is not feeling anything in Caterpillar and only for the last minute of the pose. I would never offer Shoulderstand in a Yin Yoga class, but this is not to say that both Shoulderstand and Plough poses are not okay…for some students. I know many yang teachers follow a tradition where these inversions are held for 10 minutes or more, but again that is a very advanced practice I would certainly not offer it in my classes, even to track 3 students.

I am reluctant to criticize the teacher of the class you attended as I do not know what her intentions were, or how well she knew all her students, but clearly these postures were not right for you. I would have hoped she was encouraging you (and everyone else) to pay attention to sensations and back off or come out when appropriate. On the surface, from your description, that class did not sound very safe, but I would like to hear her side of the story and understand why she was teaching the class that way. All I can say is, I wouldn’t have done those postures.

I hope your discomfort was not long lasting! Be well.
Cheers
Bernie
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