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The general focus of Yin Yoga is to become more attuned to and observant of the body; this, of course, includes the mind. "Yin Yoga can be a natural gateway to meditative practice," explains Manchard. "The yang styles of yoga can be very beneficial in stretching and releasing the muscles; however, a student's mind might never stop racing and their nervous system isn't always calmed." In order to help her students fall below the mind's constant chatter, Manchard begins each of her classes with a "sensory drop" exercise. Designed to help students get beyond their dominant senses of sight and sound, the exercise helps them attune to their physical bodies. The next step is a series of exercises focused on relaxing the mouth and jaw, which help to quiet some of student's inner chatter. These beginning exercises open students to being more observant of their bodies. "Through observing the body, there are keys to unlocking the emotions the body is holding," says Manchard. "Yang classes are led and a teacher is adding something. But Yin classes are more agenda-less; with Yin, something is being taken away."
The largest benefit of Yin Yoga practice Manchard notices "is that students give themselves permission to go slowly, be quiet, and move away from stimulation." Hendrickson goes a step further. "We are all so used to the constant pressure of having to make things happen," she says. When we are able to tune into our own intricate inner landscape we discover that "the body has its own intelligence." There is the realization that all our anatomical systems, from the nervous to the circulatory to the lungs and even the brain, proceed without our direct control. "The body is really taking care of itself."
This, agrees LeBlanc, is the true lesson of Yin practice. "The body is our best teacher," he explains. "Honor its wisdom."
Danika Henrickson will lead the Relax Into Being yoga workshop at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, May 12-14. Eomega.org
Bobbie Marchand will lead a Yin Yoga Intensive Training at the Yoga House in Kingston, May 19-21. Theyogahouseny.com
Will LeBlanc teaches two-hour Yin Yoga classes at Euphoria Yoga in Woodstock on Monday, Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Euphoriayoga.org