Yin yoga is like making a feast out of nothing. The poses are easy, barely poses at all. We hold them a long time; so long I forget I’m in a pose. When the tinkling bell goes off to change I am far removed from the body in the studio. Emily Peterson, the yin instructor at Om Namo, allows more time after the bell for us to find a neutral place than most teachers allocate to a complete sun salutation. The only thing fast about a yin class is the time – an hour and half goes by quick.
I recently took my second yin class from Emily, part of my exploration of yoga disciplines. It is appropriate that she teaches Sunday mornings, as there is a ritual church quality to our subdued movement, the calm music, the light filtering through the sheer studio curtains. My first class had been ninety minutes of yin; maybe twelve postures in all. This time Emily did about half a dozen yin poses and then led us through a lugubrious flow of elegant, simple poses. The yin was all about hips and lower belly. Although each posture seemed easy, by the epitome pose we had one leg ninety degrees under our torso straight out – a position I could not achieve without such careful predecessors.
The slow flow was familiar postures, but she got us there in such grounded ways. In chair we pushed our arms out straight, flexed our wrists and spread our fingers to the mirror; Bob Fosse-style dancers from Pippin. She built up to crescent lunge from the ground, none of that wavering I usually experience when lifting directly out of low lunge. She ended the sequenced with reverse Table Top. What could be easier than laying our your back with thighs and arms at ninety degrees? But when I actually created Table Top in reverse, I felt the relationship of my shoulders to my arms in a new way.
Class ended with a long mindfulness exercise. I stared at the acoustical ceiling tiles, envisioned them as a white sky filled with infinite particles that not only absorbed sound, but drew me up and into them. I had trouble calming my mind on a beautiful spring morning when my energy meter was running high. The thoughts came too fast and lingered too long to consider it a good mediation. Yin in the evening would better suit me.
I don’t see yin becoming the baseline of my practice, until maybe I hit age 75. But I enjoy it as a soothing anecdote to power yoga.
We started in butterfly pose.