Traditionally, Yin Yoga works the area from the navel to the knees, but the principles of Yin Yoga can be applied to all areas of the body. We know that the yin tissues that we are targeting are the denser, deeper, more plastic/less elastic tissues, such as the ligaments, joint capsules, cartilage, bones and fascial networks of the body, but these tissues are found in the upper body as well as the lower body. We can apply the principles of Yin Yoga all over the body. Normally we focus on the lower body because as we age it is this area that tightens up the most. But we can, indeed, do Yin Yoga for the wrists, arms, shoulders, and neck.
This edition of Yin Yoga Insights will look at these upper-body areas from the yin-side. As a bonus, we will also explore the 5 elements, according to the Daoist perspective.
Yin Yoga for the Neck
We carry a lot of stress in the neck and shoulder area, especially people who spend great swaths of time typing or working with their hands. Tight neck and shoulder muscles can lead to headaches and shallow breathing. Chronically tight necks can lead to shortened ligaments and a very restricted range of motion for the neck.
The shoulder is one of the most mobile and complicated joints in our body, capable of a large variety of movements. One reason that this is so, is because what we refer to as shoulder movement is really two separate movements; that of the arm and that of the scapula. The arm has 6 degrees of freedom while the scapula can move in 8 directions. If we were to analyse all the possible combinations we would have to look at 48 movements. We don’t need to have 48 postures, fortunately, to keep our shoulders in optimum condition. There are a couple of classic positions for the arms that will work the shoulders quite nicely.
Body workers, typists and musicians are just some of the people who suffer from repetitive stress syndrome and often this occurs in their wrists. There is a band of fascia surrounding the wrists called the retinaculum and there are many layers of ligaments, such as the carpal ligament, that pass over the tendons of the flexors of the fingers. Repetitive, yang-like movements of the hand can damage these yin-like tissues creating problems with names like “carpal tunnel syndrome.” Yin-like exercises will help thicken and strengthen these tissues, if done properly.
According to Chinese Medicine there are 5 elements that are fundamental to the cycles of nature and are reflected in the cycles of our bodies. We all have the 5 elements within us arranged slightly differently. The elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each element is associated with its own particular season, emotion, and organ system. Cathy Keenan is a Yin Yoga teacher and student of TCM in Toronto, and she has written 5 articles explaining the nature of the 5 elements and their effects upon us. Read about each one by clicking the link below.
If you are having trouble finding a Yin Yoga teacher near your, or if you are traveling to somewhere new, try checking out the Directory of Yin Yoga teachers. We have hundreds of teachers registered from all over the world. If you are a teacher and are not in the directory, just send us your information and we’ll be happy to add you.
The forum is available for anyone to ask questions about Yin Yoga in particular or Yoga in general, but the forum is not just for those who “don’t know” – it is also available for everyone who already knows, and has stories and information to share with others. Recently the forum has been changed to make it easier to find the most common topics. Check it out and feel free to add your voice.
Yin is In! And, it is growing in popularity. Yin Yoga has been with us since the beginning of Hatha Yoga centuries ago. But since the early 19th century, yoga has become more and more yang-like in nature. Everything requires balance: yin completes yang. Yin Yoga is the balancing practice for the more active, muscular yang yogas. There are more and more teachers offering Yin Yoga today, and more workshops and opportunities to learn how to become a Yin Yoga teacher. If diving deeper into the yin-side of life is on your bucket list, there are lots of opportunities for you.
Upcoming Yin Yoga Teacher Trainings with Bernie Clark
50 Hour Yin Yoga Teacher Training
August 22nd-28th, 2011 at the
Semperviva Yoga Studios – Vancouver, B.C., Canada
The Yin Yoga Teacher Training Program offered at the Semperviva Yoga College is a unique way to deepen your yoga practice and touch tissues rarely worked in a more active yang style of yoga. For 200 hour certified teachers the credits of the course can be applied towards the 500 hour certification, and is eligible for CEUs with Yoga Alliance. (Continuing Education Units are required to maintain your status as a Registered Yoga Teacher).
Many teachers around the world are creating Yin Yoga based workshops and retreats. Some of them are posting these activities on our Forum page. Check it out. There may be one happening near you. (If you are a teacher, feel free to add yours to the page!)
Upper Body Yin
It is possible to do Yin Yoga for the whole body: this means we can work our arms, wrists, neck and shoulders in a yin-like way to strengthen and nourish their deep connective tissues.
The 5 Elements and the Seasons Cathy Keenan, a Yin Yoga teacher and student of Traditional Chinese Medicine has written a series of articles explaining the Daoist concept of the elements. You can find them in the articles tab at YinYoga.com
Recent Forum Topics On the YinYoga.com website there is a forum where anyone can ask questions about Yin Yoga or other topics, and everyone is free to offer wise commentary. Click here to learn more.
Teacher Trainings & Retreats There are several Yin Yoga teacher training courses being held by Bernie Clark over the next 12 months. The next one is happening in August, 2011 in Vancouver Click here to learn more about these.
Checking out Other Interesting Events There are many teachers leading workshops, Yin Yoga retreats and Teacher Trainings. Click here to learn more.