If you were to look at some of the first results that come up, a variety of images will catch your eye. The yogi in flowing white robes mediating serenely; the lyrca clad gymnast in a moody loft studio, concentrating on their balance or form. You may see an image of one of the gods or goddesses of yoga such as Shiva or Shakti, Lakshmi the Goddess of Abundance, Ganesha the Elephant God. Or maybe you fix on images of a yoga class in any one of thousands of school halls, church rooms and small studios the length and breadth of the country, with men and women like you and I taking part.
The word Yoga translates literally from its native Sanskrit as “join” or “union”. Sometimes “yoke”, as in yoking cattle.
Some of the earliest writing about Yoga is in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, written around 1,000 to 500 BC. The opening verses give us an expanded definition of yoga, “Yoga is control of thought-waves in the mind, so that man can abide in his true nature”. In the original Sanskrit this is “yoga chitta vritti nirodhah tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam“.
But what does that mean? And how does it relate to archetypes described above?
Thought waves in the mind is the stuff that distracts us and holds us back, the things that stop us fulfilling our potential as individuals – thoughts, emotions, reactions, memories, trauma, stresses. Our true nature is to understand and rise above these. Yoga helps us do so. This is the unity explicit in the word Yoga; our minds, bodies and spirit in unity.
I would re-interpret “yoga chitta vritti nirodhah tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam” as a process of wellness – releasing everything which holds us back so that we have wellbeing. Release from limiting behaviour, limiting belief, a limiting relationship with the full expression of ourselves. Release from conditioned responses to day to day events. An awareness of how and why we move, think and do.
The key is awareness, focus and concentration. By practising with awareness, focus and concentration we start to understand and rise above the limiting behaviours and beliefs.
And how does this relate to the images I described at the start of this section? And to a typical yoga class? In all of them focus and concentration is key – concentration on mediation; concentration on movement; concentration on the ancient philosophies of Yoga.
So to me, Yoga is a process of personal wellness – physically, mentally and spiritually.
Increasingly I also interpret it as a process of personal insight and understanding, reflecting that insight and understanding must be the foundation of any agenda of personal change.
I’ve no doubt that each of the google results are unique and emphasise different aspects of yoga – my thoughts above are just a vignette of these wider thoughts.
Its worth touching quickly on what Yoga isn’t.
Yoga isn’t a religion – Yoga has routes in ancient Hindu philosophy and, according to some sources, many other ancient religions and philosophical systems. However it is not a religion; there is no dictation as to what you do or don’t believe, or how you interpret God, divinity and spirituality. All Yoga asks is that you approach everything in life with an open mind, including faith and belief.
Yoga isn’t physical just exercise and flexibility – it includes movement and body control, sometimes quite strongly, and it will help with fitness, but its basis is much wider.
India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, sums things up well writing for International Yoga Day:
Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature … Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being”
About Yin Yoga – ‘The Quiet Practice’
As with a lot of things, the term Yin Yoga isn’t that precise, and has been interpreted in different ways by different teacher; arguably its a way of thinking and practising rather than a specific style. In essence its a quieter, slower, more passive form of Yoga, typified by using gentler versions of common Yoga postures and holding them for a longer time than usual.
A summary of the Yin practice comes from one of the Senior Teachers in the US, Sarah Powers, “unhurried postures unstained by striving”
“Unhurried postures unstained by striving”
Where there is a Yin there is a Yang – the two inter depend on each other. Yang is active, moving, dynamic, expansive, outward. Yin is quiet, passive, still, calming, contracting, inwards.
Yin Yoga aims to work with Yin energies and Yin parts of the body, countering the typically Yang activity of our day to day lives. We spend all day moving, thinking and doing – all Yang things – Yin is the counter balance to this. Someone once described it to me as “A work-in rather than a work-out”.
“A work-in rather than a work-out”
Energetically Yin energy is a restoring, nurturing, rebuilding inward energy, as opposed the outward doing action of Yang energy.
Physically the Yin aspect of the body is the supportive, connective parts of the body – in particular fascia – as opposed to the Yang muscle and movement system.
Some teachers emphasise the physical side of Yin Yoga, and the effect on the physical body, other teachers the energetic side of Yin Yoga and its inherent restorative and balancing nature. For me it is an element of both.
Yin Yoga is an ideal counter to a busy life, to a more dynamic Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga practice, or to active sports and leisure.
There are some key principles behind a Yin asana practice:
- Come into the pose at an appropriate depth
- Resolve to remain still and
- Hold the pose for a appropriate time
The Yinyoga.com website is a wonderful source for all things Yin.
For a more detailed understanding of my teaching approach, see Yin Inspired Yoga in detail – aimed at experienced yoga practitioners/teachers, bodyworkers, therapists and health professionals.
About Jessica: I started exploring Yoga in my mid 40s – it had been on my “to do” list for many years but never quite happened. One day I saw an advert for “Yoga and Brunch” and thought that sounded a civilised way to brighten up a dull January Saturday morning.
From that very first class I was captivated with Yoga, before long attending classes a week, along with additional workshops, the first steps toward a home practice and starting to devour Yoga books.
It was perhaps inevitable that training as a Yoga teacher would follow in due course.
Away from Yoga my background is Accounting and Tax, which I still practice, including accounting for yoga teachers. When not at work I enjoy fresh air – whether walking or cycling on land, or at sea on our family motor yacht – and having my nose in a good book.
Styles: Most of the regular teachers I have worked with come from a Hatha or Vinyasa style of Yoga, and these have been the foundations of my own practice.
My Yoga Teacher Training Tutor came from a Satyananda lineage and this has influenced my own practice.
In 2012, recovering from a fracture, I discovered by myself a slower quieter side to Yoga, which I later came to understand as Yin yoga.
All these influences come together in my teaching, which I refer to as Yin Inspired Yoga.
My Yin Inspired Yoga style is an adaptation of a classic Yin Yoga practice to also include, as appropriate, elements of Hatha Yoga postures, maybe some very slow flow, Pranayama and Mindfulness – the emphasis remains on a slow floor based practice though.
I’m also influenced by disciplines of human sciences – specifically functional anatomy and neuroscience, and h0w these influence practice. Elements of my current training in Yoga Therapy come into class.
Although I would describe myself as Liberal Christian, I have a strong interest in Buddhist ethics and practice, and this illuminates aspects of my classes especially Meditation and Mindfulness practices.
I would like to feel I am firmly grounded in teaching and practising all the eight limbs of Classical Raja Yoga – specifically I see Asana (yoga postures) as only part of the practice.
If you are looking for a very strong physical class then I am not the Yoga teacher for you; likewise if physical fitness or weight loss is your main aim then there are more efficient ways of achieving this. However why not give a class a try? It may not be what you were looking for, but it could be what you need in a busy bustling world. I offer free taster classes to get you going.
Amidst all the seriousness, I also think Yoga should be fun and relaxed, and approached with humour – you should leave the class feeling better than when you came in.
Yinspire is an LGBT friendly business, committed to promoting equality and inclusiveness.
- 2013-2014 FRYOG foundation course 100 hours
- 2014-2015 FRYOG practical teaching course 200 hours
- 2014 Foundations of Yin Yoga – one week – tutor Norman Blair
- 2015 – 2016 Structural, Functional and Experiential Anatomy for Yoga – 100 hours – with Gary Carter
- 2016 Advanced Yin Yoga Teacher Training – 60 hours – tutor Norman Blair
- 2017 – 2019 – (ongoing) Yoga Therapy Training – 550 hours – Minded Institute
CPD and other training
- 2013 Yin Yang Yoga workshops – one weekend – tutor Simon Low
- 2014 Common Injuries Upper and Lower Body – one day cadaver prosection
- 2014 Yin Yoga workshops – one weekend – with Paul Grilley
- 2016 Anatomy of pelvis, spine and back pain – half day cadaver prosection
- 2016 Anatomy of spinal cord and nervous system – half day cadaver prosection
- 2016 Five day guided cadaver dissection – with Julian Baker
- 2016 Insight Yoga + Psychological Inquiry workshops – one weekend – with Sarah Powers
- 2017 Insight Yoga Teacher Training Intensive: Mindfulness + Inner Practices in Yin Yoga – five days with Sarah Powers
- 2017 Yoga Therapy for Low Back Pain & Sciatica – three days with Robin Monro / Minded Institute
Here are some of my recent musings:
- Don’t Get Stressed About It! Stress And How Yoga Can Help 3rd October 2017
- Metta 9th June 2017
- Awareness of Non Awareness 19th April 2017
- Anatomy of an Ex Friendship 11th April 2017
- New Year Thoughts – Setting a Sankalpa 1st January 2017
- Solstice thoughts 21st December 2016
- We are all Donald 9th November 2016
- Post Brexit: a word on tolerance 29th June 2016
- In Defence of Yin Yoga 6th May 2016
- Advent thoughts 23rd December 2015
- Yoga and IBS 20th October 2015
- Is Yoga Exercise? I’m not clear? 21st September 2015
- Action and reaction – taking control of our future 27th August 2015
- Yoga and Christianity 13th August 2015
- Guru Purnima 31st July 2015
- Perfect 31st July 2015
- Weight loss, diet and stress 20th July 2015
- International Yoga Day 21st June 2015
- Words. Non Violence. Truth. 6th June 2015
- Namaste and Om 15th May 2015
- A long stretch 9th May 2015
- Body v Mind, Mind v Body 3rd May 2015
- Yoga and Backs – a Personal Reflection 27th April 2015
I devour books on yoga – here are some of the books I’ve read, and reviewed, recently:
- Book: Core of the Yoga Sutras – BKS Iyengar 14th November 2017
- Book: Gender Medicine – Marek Glezerman 10th November 2017
- Book: The Mind Gut Connection – Emeran Mayer 7th November 2017
- Book: The Ecology of the Soul – Aidan Walker 3rd November 2017
- Book: Acu Yoga – Michael Reed Gach 31st October 2017
- Book: And Breath – Rebecca Dennis 24th October 2017
- Book: The Healing Power of the Breath – Brown & Gerbarg 17th October 2017
- Book: Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind over Body – Jo Marchant 10th October 2017
- Book: Big Fit Girl – Louise Green 26th September 2017
- Book: A Day in the Life of the Brain: The Neuroscience of Consciousness – Susan Greenfield 19th September 2017
- Book: Molecules of Emotion – Candace Pert 12th September 2017
- Book: The Plastic Mind – Sharon Begley 5th September 2017
- Book: Sleep Better – The Science and The Myths – Graham Law and Shane Pascoe 29th August 2017
- Book: When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi (Dcd) 21st August 2017
- Book: Freedom in Exile – Autobiography of the Dalai Lama 14th August 2017
- Book: the Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down – Haemin Sunim 7th August 2017
- Book: Waking Up – Searching for Spirituality Without Religion – Sam Harris 12th July 2017
- Book: The Brain – Michael O’Shea 5th July 2017
- Book: The Sleep Revolution – Arianna Huffington 28th June 2017
- Book: Yoga FAQ – Richard Rosen 14th June 2017
- Book: The Telomere Effect – Blackburn & Epel 5th June 2017
- Book: The Modern Yoga Bible – Christina Brown 16th May 2017
- Book: The Stress Test – Ian Robertson 11th April 2017
- Book: 10% Happier – Dan Harris 4th April 2017
- Book: Buddhism – A Concise Introduction – Huston Smith and Philip Novak 29th March 2017
- Book: The Relaxation Response – Herbert Benson 22nd March 2017
- Book: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers – Robert M. Sapolsky 13th March 2017
- Book: The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma – Bessel van der Kolk 6th March 2017
- Book: Chinese Medicine – The Web That Has No Weaver – Ted Kaptchuk 13th February 2017
- Book: Adrenal Fatigue – James Wilson 30th January 2017
- Book: Yoga: Fascia, Anatomy and Movement – Joanne Avison 5th January 2017
- Book: The Magical year – Danu Forest 20th December 2016
- Book: Insight Yoga – Sarah Powers 19th December 2016
- Book: After Buddhism – Stephen Batchelor 3rd December 2016
- Book: The Universe in Your Hand – Christophe Galfard 20th November 2016
- Book: Mindful Moments – Louise Adams 4th November 2016
- Book: Yoga Reminder – A G Monaghan 16th October 2016
- Book: An Empath: The Highly Sensitive Person’s Guide to Energy, Emotions & Relationships – Alex Myles 8th October 2016
- Book: Fierce Medicine: Breakthrough Practices to Heal the Body and Ignite the Spirit – Ana Forrest 18th September 2016
- Book: Back to Life – How to Unlock your Pathway to Recover when Back Pain Persists – David Rogers & Grahame Brown 8th September 2016
- Book: Yoga for a Happy Back: A Teacher’s Guide to Spinal Health through Yoga Therapy – Rachel Krentzman 1st September 2016
- Book: Yoga of the Subtle Body – Tias Little 16th August 2016
- Book: Turning the Mind into an Ally – Sakyong Mipham 9th August 2016
- Book: Holistic Anatomy – Pip Waller 18th July 2016
- Book: The Breath – Vessantara 20th June 2016
- Book: Running with the Mind of Meditation – Sakyong Mipham 31st May 2016
- Book: Too Simple for Words, Reflections on Non Duality – Graham Stew 29th May 2016
- Book: Your Body, Your Yoga: Bernie Clark 28th May 2016
- Book: Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig 27th May 2016
- Book: Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled – Ruby Wax 26th May 2016
- Book: It’s all all Your Head, True Stories of Imaginary Illness – Suzanne O’Sullivan 21st May 2016
- Book: Yin Yoga – Ulrica Norberg 31st March 2016
- Book: Mind Change – Susan Greenfield 19th March 2016
- Book: Yin Yoga – Olivia Summers 4th March 2016
- Book: Adventures in Being Human – Gavin Francis 28th February 2016
- Book: Chakra Yoga – Anodea Judith 15th February 2016
- Book: The Diet Myth:The Real Science Behind What We Eat – Tim Spector 5th February 2016
- Book: Being Mortal – Atul Gawande 21st January 2016
- Book: God is Not a Christian – Desmond Tutu 5th January 2016
- Book: Behavioural Economics Saved My Dog – Dan Ariely 21st December 2015
- Books: Light on Yoga and Light on Pranayama – BKS Iyengar 18th December 2015
- Book: Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East – Charles Russell 14th December 2015
- Books: Full Catastrophe Living and Wherever You are There You Go – Jon Kabat-Zinn 19th November 2015
- Book: The Poetry of Kabir 30th October 2015
- Book: How to do Restorative Yoga – Michael Hetherington 21st October 2015
- Book: Energy Medicine – The Scientific Basis – James Oschman 8th October 2015
- Book: Yoga For Emotional Balance – Bo Forbes 1st October 2015
- Book: Yoga Girl – Rachel Brathen 17th September 2015
- Book: Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice – Deborah Adele 10th September 2015
- Book: The Spark in the Machine – Daniel Keown 3rd September 2015
- Book: Autobiography of a Yogi – Paramahansa Yogananda 23rd August 2015
- Book: Theories of the Chakras: Bridge to Higher Consciousness – Hiroshi Motoyama 29th July 2015
- Book: Serenity Yin yoga – Magdalena Macweld 28th July 2015
- Book: The Reluctant Yogi – Carla McKay 26th July 2015
- Book: Intelligent Yoga – Peter Blackaby 31st May 2015