I recently received the following email:
Hello – I'm 21 and live up north in Norway. Right now I am looking at the asanas poses on yinyoga.com. I am very dedicated to practice yoga in the future. Does the yin yoga rules/guidelines apply for all of the poses at yinyoga.com? asanas and everything? Into position, wait for the body to open up; holding still; holding for time.
Unfortunately I am pretty stiff, a true 75% Norwegian. I just started stretching about four days ago with the goal of getting very flexible and elastic fast and so that I can get into a full Lotus pose. I didn't know anything about stretching then and I went full power ALL IN the first day and my body didn't want to get stretched very much the next day. It was much pain that day. Hehhehe.
So I started studying of course and now yoga stands much higher on the list. Yoga will give me the same results but a lot more as well. I studied a bit on yinyoga.com and I am a spiritual person already, I enjoy nurturing myself and my life-energies in all ways.
So if I would do the different asanas poses the way described now, will I get injured if I hold for time? Of course, I see that I have to listen to my body and don't allow any pain, but do you have any inputs about this? Like do I only do the pose halfway and wait till it opens up or how does that work? I like to do things right but my body has learnt that it can't copy the same stuff that the guys who is showing the poses do.
So what I'm really asking for is a few beginner-tips regarding this. Can you recommend any asanas poses that is good to begin with? Like 4-6 different ones. Maybe some that could help me with my Lotus as well? My ass and hips/lower back is what stands in my way. And the knee joints of course, but I'm already working a lot with those. I'm also wondering about warm up. Is there any physical warm up required before doing yin-yoga?
I hope you can take some time to reply these questions, I would be honored and very thankful for that. And it would help me a lot too, this is something I wan't to have as a lifestyle now, not just try out.
By the way; If there is any donation link or anything, I would love to give something. I am sure that I will buy the books written by Bernie as well but unfortunately that has to wait until after Christmas.
All the best! Alexander
Hello Alexander – thanks for your questions. I will try to answer the most important ones (the ones I have bolded above), but part of the journey you have begun includes finding the answers yourself, and often these come from within, not from other people.
Let me start first with a comment about one of your goals: you said, “I just started stretching about four days ago with the goal of getting very flexible and elastic fast.” That is a sure fire way to hurt yourself! You did not become stiff and inflexible overnight and you won’t become opened and flexible overnight either. What is your hurry? I speak from unfortunate experience: like you – I was in a hurry. I was a type A personality and when I started my yoga journey, I decided that I was going to master Lotus pose too. In my first year of yoga I contorted myself into the pose, felt some burning in my knees, stayed though through the pain (what’s a little pain? No pain, no gain – right?) But, when I came out of the pose, the burning didn’t stop. I tore the meniscus in both knees and eventually needed arthroscopic surgery to repair the damage. What was my hurry? Ego – that’s all. And I paid the price for that ego-driven approach to my practice.
I urge you to reconsider your intentions: instead of thinking about increasing performance or looking good, decide instead to become healthier and whole. With this as your intention, combined with the practice of paying attention, you are going to be able to establish a yoga practice that will last a lifetime, and hopefully because of it, a very long lifetime.
Q1: Do the rules apply for all the poses?
A1: Yes! The three tattvas or principles are – come to your edge, become still and hold for time. That is all we need to do in the Yin Yoga style of practice. But, while these are simply principles, they are not easy. I encourage you to read the chapter in YinSights
that explains these principles, and also read my article on the Goldilocks’ principle
Q2: Will I get injured if I hold for time?
A2: Maybe! Time is the third principle, but we must also make sure we are at our edge, which is the second principle. If you are past your edge, then holding for time is not very dangerous. Again, read the article about the Goldilocks principle to fully understand how to find your edge, and don’t go beyond it. How to know when you have been in a pose long enough is also related to your edge: if the sensations become painful – you have been there too long!
Another aspect to consider is your unique biology and biography. Because we are all unique, every pose is not right for every body. You may have some challenges that I am not aware of, and that you may not even be aware of. In the list of asanas
I give several contraindications of when a pose may not be appropriate. Listen to these warnings and listen to your body. To further understand the implications of the individual variations we all have, read this article on The Two Biggest Challenges in Yoga Today
Q3: Do I only do the pose halfway and wait till it opens up or how does that work?
A3: There is no halfway! There is only your edge. Go to your edge, then back off slightly. Then stay. That is all. Again, listen to your body – it will tell you where you are. This is not a linear process. We don’t always open up right away, or in the same way each time we try a pose. Don’t worry about how long it takes, be patient and enjoy the journey.
Q4: I'm also wondering about warm up …
A4: Yin Yoga is a cool practice; there is no need to warm up before doing it. You can understand why by reading this section of YinSights
. There are also several threads
on this forum discussing this topic. I encourage you to read them. Having said that – doing Yin Yoga on a mid-winter’s night in the heart of Norway is already cold! Don’t go overboard. You don’t have to be cold, just be comfortable, but not overly warm either. As you will read, however, there are times when it is perfectly fine to be warmed up: it just isn’t necessary.
Q5: So what I'm really asking for is a few beginner-tips regarding this.
A5: I am again going to ask you to do your own research. Here is another good chapter for you from YinSights: Before You Practice
Read this whole section, and then try the beginner flow
. Feel free to go to the YouTube Yin Yoga Channel
and follow along with the easier flows offered there too.