Once upon a time, one of my regular clients brought a friend to my Evening Yoga class. They wanted to share the joy that is The F*cking Yoga Co with a person who practices yoga. Recognizing there were some new faces in class, I gave my schpeel.
“Welcome to Evening Yoga. This is ooey-gooey, the last one to bed is a rotten egg yoga.”
Before I could continue the new person interrupted, “We could do an hour of Yin yoga instead.”
I stopped and pinned her with a look. “You’ve never been to my classes. Hold the comments until the end.”
I worked the yoga groove and rocked her world.
“I’ve never been this relaxed at the end of a yoga class!” She exclaimed. “I think I lost consciousness or something.”
A few days later, one of my clients asked me what possible issue I could have with Yin Yoga.
Oh, I have issues.
For most of you wondering what the hell is Yin yoga, I’ll explain.
Yin yoga is a style of yoga that originates from the traditional tenets of yoga as a purely meditative practice. It focuses on holding poses (asanas) for long periods of time. The practice of being still is one of the primary functions of the original Eight Limbs of yoga. Quieting the mind and body allows a person to cultivate detachment from our senses and draw our focus internally (pratyahara) and also finely tunes our ability to concentrate without effort (dharana).
I told you I don’t make this shit up.
That said, Yin yoga is currently taught as a deep release of muscle tissue and fascia release. Practitioners hold poses anywhere from 45 seconds to five minutes. Note, it is generally recommended in the fitness community to hold stretches up to sixty seconds. NO BOUNCING!
Yin yoga involves heavy use of blocks and blankets, maybe straps to get into and hold poses for those longer periods. Sometimes the instructor reads inspiring passages or offers something on which to meditate. Always my favorite kinds of classes. EYE ROLL.
Jeez Julia, how can you have a problem with stretching?
Freeze a rubber band. Seriously, put a rubber band in the freezer.
Let’s clarify something. Flexibility is a function of the range of motion in a joint. Joints movement can be improved by overall muscle elasticity, joint structure, condition of ligaments and tendons. LIGAMENTS AND TENDONS ARE NOT ELASTIC. They do not stretch. They can tear and that’s a bad thing.
If we’re talking contortionists, we’re talking a combination of genetics and conditioning from a very young age to systematically lengthen tendons and ligaments. Over the long term, gymnasts and contortionists will have their own physical issues.
There are dynamic stretches and static-active stretches and ballistic stretches (if you think that last one sounds bad, IT IS.)
Go get that rubber band. Now, stretch it hard and as long as you can pull it. Did it snap? If it didn’t snap, do you see the tears and cracks in the material?
This is my problem with Yin yoga. To effectively stretch, your muscles should be warm, your overall body temperature should be raised, and your heart rate should be elevated a bit to increase your blood flow.
Most Yin classes, all of the videos, all of the classes I’ve seen or attended, don’t warm you up. The instructor just orders you into a pose and BAM! You’re in it. If you have been to any of my classes, yoga OR fitness, you know we don’t slam into anything. We move dynamically. We get the blood pumping and increase our body temperature. We move in repetition and then we may hold a pose statically. I call it a stay.
I am trying to keep you from injuring your body. Period.
Yin yoga is a terrific example of what is called training oversight. We are overusing our body and damaging our system. The statistics of yoga injuries are HIGH. And those injuries are avoidable.
It’s not only yoga. More people injure themselves working out than playing football. Yes, you read that correctly. 527,000 injuries reported in 2017 attributed to exercise compared to 341,000 injuries attributed to football.
Fifty-seven percent of those exercise-related injuries occurred in a group fitness environment involving CrossFit, Body Pump, or RIPPED style classes. Of the people practicing yoga, over ten percent a year injure themselves. More than twenty-one percent of yoga participants exacerbate existing injuries.
Those are scary numbers.
Anecdotally, I have three yoga clients out for the next few months because they did damage in one of those high-intensity classes. People laugh when I say I am the “Low and slow” guru. They don’t laugh after they have strained something in a class that demands too fast, too heavy, and doesn’t focus on form of movement.
Yoga instructors (not me) are no different and at least as dangerous. They speak in dulcet tones and spew their zen-like hoodoo voodoo with authority so you are more inclined to trust them. In my experience (thirty-five years of yoga practice, bitches) the vast majority of yoga teachers (fitness instructors too) I have encountered have little or no anatomy, even less physiology, and none, zilch, nada experience in kinesiology. ZERO.
Yoga teachers say stupid motherfucking things like “stretch your lungs” or “shine your heart” or “arch your back” with absolute confidence and a lack of understanding that they are encouraging you to DAMAGE YOUR BODY.
A healthy Yin yoga class should be at least ninety minutes to offer a brief and easy warm-up and a moving cool down before savasana. I have attended one Yin class in the last thirty years that offered that structure. ONE.
That’s my problem with Yin, bitches.