Health

The Yoga Revolution: Are You Sitting Down?

Finding true balance in a stress-heavy society

Yoga studios can be intimidating places. But if you can get past all the sandalwood and head-to-toe Lulu Lemon – you’ll be hooked on a popular floor-based practice called Yin Yoga.

We’re a yang-heavy society, and our bodies are tired of being all business, all the time. Improving our health through stillness and breath may be just what the doctor ordered.

Practicing yoga at home is always an option, of course, but it’s probably another beginning-of-the-year lie we’ll tell ourselves. That’s because pushing laundry out of the way to make room for a yoga mat isn’t a set-up for success.

Yoga’s certainly not happening for 60 minutes in most people’s living rooms. Balance and surrender could easily give way to a bowl of cereal and a favorite sitcom.

An uninterrupted practice may be better found by dusting off a yoga mat and rolling it out at a studio instead.

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Yin Yoga, a form growing in popularity, is the perfect antidote for imbalance — those taxing aspects of life that cause stress, illness, or worry. With its meditative style and use of passive postures held over longer periods, Yin is a complement to other fast-paced sports and movement-based yoga classes.

The physical changes experienced by “slowing everything down and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system are profound,” Malisa Bobbitt, founder of Vertical Soul Yoga Institute in northern Arizona, told LifeZette. By putting the brakes on the sympathetic nervous system and its adrenaline factory — the benefits are palpable.

Stretching has repeatedly been shown to help avoid injury, and lengthening our muscles can undo damage often caused by other repetitive exercise. Stretching in a structured class environment also ensures you’ll stretch your entire body, versus hitting only the trouble spots. Yoga also allows us to clear our mind and focus on our breath.

The paybacks of yoga, for many health conditions, may even exceed those produced by pharmaceuticals. Dr. Timothy McCall, author of “Yoga as Medicine,” has identified 75 health conditions that, through scientific rigor ,clearly demonstrate the physical benefits of yoga — everything from carpal tunnel syndrome to anxiety attacks.

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But it takes commitment: Deep tissue, muscle and fascia can’t be reached with a few-second calf stretch on a kitchen stool. The magic happens in Yin when muscles are passive, allowing us to stretch stiff tissue that becomes bound and immobile as we age, according to Yoga Journal.

This nonexertional, floor-based practice is a surefire way to wrangle even the most unmotivated of your friends to go with you. Imagine wearing your yoga pants (today’s new sweat pants) to yoga instead of to the grocery store?

We all have our “flexibility challenges,” notes physical therapist and yoga instructor Maggie Hopson. The use of props such as blocks, bolsters and blankets is unique to Yin Yoga. The room may resemble a group camping experience more than a yoga practice.

Yin is inclusive and for everyone. Holding a headstand or having the ability to touch your toes in this class would be purely self-imposed measures for admittance.

It’s not always easy, of course.

“We tend to undervalue the idea of just allowing things to happen in life, constantly striving to make things the way we think they should be, or want them to be,” Hopson said.

Yoga can be a humbling experience, as it goes after our troubled, most bound-up parts. But Hopson serves up an eloquent reminder.

“In Yin, we learn to accept, with grace and nonjudgment, the idea that we’re enough exactly where we are.”

There’s no need to be “all yang, all the time.”

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