- Hello, Bernie.
I have been practicing Yin for about three months now, and I’m hooked. Nevertheless, I am not seeing some results I had hoped for, and I wonder whether you can give me any guidance there. I am 66 years old, have arthritis in my feet (which doesn’t seem to affect my practice) and am somewhat overweight.
I would say I am highly inflexible: I can’t get anywhere near touching my toes when I bend over, and I can’t sit on my heels. This is not just an age issue. I have been similarly inflexible since I was an adolescent, even when I was a competitive gymnast in my teenage years. My knee flexibility (or at any rate, my kneeling) may be limited by my bilateral Osgood Schlatters.
My legs have always been powerful and well-muscled. This makes me think that the increased flexibility I need may not be provided by just stretching the connective tissue, but the muscles as well. Should I be incorporating some Yang practice in my routine to stretch the hamstrings, etc.? Is it possible to mix a flow with Yin and Yang? How can I figure out which Yang asanas and techniques I should be using? Or should I just reconcile myself to this limited flexibility?
Thanks for reading this far. By the way, thanks for your writings and videos that have inspired and informed me up to this point.
Best regards, Jay
Hi Jay. Thanks for your questions. First, you are not the only one who finds gaining flexibility to be a challenge. Also, please recognize that people don’t get “stiff” overnight, and they are not going to recover their natural range of motion quickly either. It takes time, many months and years of practice to undo a lifetime of immobilization. However, before we can suggest what would work for you, you need to answer a very important question,
- What Stops Me?
Just as a doctor won’t prescribe medicine without know the cause of the patient’s illness, a yoga teacher can’t suggest a style of practice without knowing why you are inflexible. Let’s see if we can help you answer this question first.
I am in the process of writing another book: this one will be released in several volumes with the first book due out in early 2016. It will be called Your Body – Your Yoga. The first volume addresses this important question of What Stops Me? The answer is not simple and it falls along a spectrum of possibilities: from several sources of tension and three sources of compression. A good yoga teacher can help you find out where your restrictions lie.
I don’t have space here to define tension and compression, but I invite you to read up on these two important concepts in YinSights here (or you can buy The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga and check it out there.) Once you know the answer to this question, then you can start to plan out a functional approach to your yoga practice, with the specific targeted areas getting the appropriate quality and quantity of stress required.
You asked if you should add yang forms of yoga to your practice or stick with yin. If your intention is to develop increased range of motion, yin practice is more likely to benefit you more quickly than yang, but we need balance in life. Yang provides strength and endurance and helps the body to stay young and healthy. I would encourage you to find a yoga teacher who can offer you help in both styles of practice. It is definitely possible to mix both yin and yang intentions in your practice.
Again, seek out a teacher you can work with. The internet is not great for providing individual instruction. There are a couple of Yin Yoga teachers in Copenhagen listed in the Teacher Directory.