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Yinspiration: What Do You Yin For? Part 1

November 18th, 2016

New to yin yoga? Our instructor, Ashley McEachern, asks her students to share their yin yoga journeys in order to help newcomers to the yin yoga practice understand why we yin.

As a yin yoga instructor and trainer, I am continually seeking out both scientific and anecdotal evidence that this practice of long held yin yoga postures, accompanied by therapeutic tools such as aromatherapy, breathwork and guided meditation, can actually help people. In Bernie Clark’s article “A Scientific Basis for Yin Yoga” he effectively articulates that traction, such as the feeling across the spine in yin yoga forward folds, “stimulates the growth of bones and their associated ligaments”[1] while prolonged holds in poses create stress and tension which stimulates myofascial release, elongation of fascia and leads to pain reduction and increased mobility.[2]

After years of engaging in the practice myself, I am confident in the works’ ability to resolve stress and tension, but truthfully, it is the anecdotal evidence - the stories and the journeys of my yin yoga students at YYoga - that wholeheartedly convince me that this is a worthwhile healing practice.

Many of my yin yoga students have been attending weekly evening yin yoga classes with me for the three years that the Queen Street West studio has been open. They all arrive on the mat for different reasons, they all leave with different lessons. I decided to reach out to some of my regular students and invite them to share their stories, their journeys, and their anecdotes to help newcomers to the yin yoga practice comprehend why we yin.

Yin Yoga For Stress

“Yin yoga has taught me to not take my emotions personally. To sort through them and process why I am feeling the way that I do, then let go. It has made my life so much easier in the way that I don't become easily stressed. Yin yoga has trained my body to breathe through the sensations. The intense postures are just like hectic situations in life. I am able to stay in the present moment and find contentment & softness in both.”

The Science: Yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation can reduce stress, promote healing, increase energy, and decrease adverse cancer treatment effects while enhancing quality of life for patients.[3]

Yin Yoga for Crisis Management

“Yin yoga is a resource for wellness in my life. I work as a clinician in a fast paced acute mental health service. Every day, life throws some new challenge my way. Although I love and am passionate about my work, the stress of the daily emotional ups and down can be hard to manage at times. In the past, the stress from the daily grind often got the better of me - sometimes difficult feelings came up and I'd be washed away in a sea of emotions.

Thankfully, I was introduced to yin yoga three years ago at YYoga and found a tool to better cope with the stress. I came to Ashley's class, and she encouraged me to move and breathe with challenging sensations. To sit with the sensations, take them all in, and breathe through it. I feel that the skills I've gained through yin yoga are applied not only on the mat, but in all areas of my life. Now, at work, when a crisis situation arises, I do the same thing I do in my yin yoga to get myself through the situation. I breathe, notice all the sensations that arise, and just keep on breathing.”

The Science: In a paper published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Dr. M. Javnbakht and fellow researchers conclude that “yoga can be considered as a complementary therapy or an alternative method for medical therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders.”[4]

Yin Yoga For Empowerment, Confidence and Courage

“In 2015, when attending the World Series of Poker (a high stress environment), I hired Ashley to join and lead yin yoga classes to help me navigate the tough terrain. Not only were the sessions an extremely grounding and balancing presence to have around, thanks to her assistance I was able to navigate one of the most stressful summers of my life without taking a heavy toll on my body or mind. I am certain that without yin yoga that summer I would have experienced some sort of breakdown in that environment. I am truly grateful to have discovered Ashley Holly one fateful day at YYoga on Queen Street. In her I have found a great teacher, a great friend and a great guide. She has introduced me to numerous healing modalities and healers from her network which have completely transformed me from someone who was dependent and dis-empowered, to someone who truly believes anything is possible and someone who is fully in control of their own health, well being and destiny in this life.”

The Science: [Yoga] practice improves depression and can lead to significant increases in serotonin levels.[5]

Whether you are navigating physical, emotional or energetic restrictions in your body, mind or spirit, the integrative approach provided by a yin yoga practice has both anecdotal and scientific backing to support overall health and wellness.

[1] See The biology of distraction osteogenesis for correction of mandibular and craniomaxillofacial defects: A review by Subodh Shankar Natu et al in Dental Research Journal 2014 Jan-Feb; 11(1): 16Ð26.
[2] From Duration and Magnitude of Myofascial Release in 3-Dimensional Bioengineered Tendons: Effects on Wound Healing by Thanh V. Cao et al in J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2015;115(2):72-82
[3] Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life by Catherine Woodyard in Int J Yoga. 2011 Jul?Dec; 4(2): 49-54 
[4] https://www.elsevier.com/connect/the-science-of-yoga-what-new-research-reveals    
[5] Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life by Catherine Woodyard in Int J Yoga. 2011 Jul?Dec; 4(2): 49-54

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