A very brief explanation of yin yoga

What is yin yoga?

I am asked that question at least once a week from students, friends, and anyone else who is willing to listen to me talk about yoga. Yin is my main at-home yoga practice, and I am totally in love with it. I’ll keep this as brief as possible, because I could go on for days, but I’ll assume my reader doesn’t have days. So…

Yin yoga is the opposite of yang yoga. A very large majority of the yoga classes that are offered today, especially in the Bay Area, are taught in the yang style. Ashtanga, vinyasa, hatha, and flow yoga are all forms of yang yoga.

Physically, yang yoga requires us to activate a certain group of muscles in order to lengthen another group of muscles. Think about a forward fold. We engage our quads to stretch our hamstrings. We activate our feet, lift our knee caps, and press our spine out long as we lengthen through the crown of our head.

Mentally and emotionally, the yang parts of us are the more extroverted, open, bright, loud, moving, masculine, and active sides of our personality.

Yin yoga, on the other hand, calls for the least amount of muscular action possible–so while practicing a yin style forward fold, we would relax all muscles and just allow our torso to fall forward. This will look and feel different from a yang style forward fold. And that’s good, because your connective tissue, joints, ligaments and tendons are being opened while practicing yin, where as your muscles take the majority of the stretch in a yang style pose.

The yin characteristics of our emotional bodies are the parts of us that are more introverted, still, receptive, contracting, quiet, darker, mysterious, and feminine.

Many beginner students are told to go to a yin class, wrongly so, because we hold the poses for a long amount of time and only a few poses are taught in each class. But in reality, yin is not necessarily a beginner’s practice. Yes, someone who has never been on a yoga mat before would be fine, physically at least, but yin does not by any means lack the intensity of a kick your ass level 3 yang class. Yin poses are just as physically intense, but even more so emotionally. We aren’t used to quiet, to stillness, to sitting with ourselves. So this can be scary and super emotional, especially for someone who hasn’t done yoga before.

Yin yoga is not popular in the Bay Area. There are only a few studios that offer classes, and of those studios most of them only have one or two yin classes per week. This is confusing to me because when we live in a place like we do, that is full of people and traffic and parties and coffee, I would think that we would crave something to balance out our extremely extroverted lives.

I love yin yoga for many reasons–the quiet, the stillness, and the ability to allow myself to actually be that shy, private, observant person that I have always been. But the thing I love about it the most is the balance it gives me. As a climber, it is my goal and passion to fight against gravity all day, sometimes for weeks at a time. Many people see climbing as a fight against the rock itself, when in reality we are trying to figure out a way to move our body in which gravity doesn’t prevent us from climbing up a rock. So when I practice yin yoga, where I can finally give in to gravity, surrender to it completely and allow it to pull and pull and pull, one could imagine how good this feels. It may sound hippiedippie but yin is my way of respecting gravity and the physical forces of the world. Release. Surrender. Gravity rules, always.

It is confusing and difficult for me to have a yoga teacher tell me to stay within or stay quiet or something like that when we are doing handstands and deep backbends and crazy arm balances. Those poses are large, robust, celebratory, and I have a hard time keep a yin mind while doing such extroverted poses. It is a shame that there isn’t more yoga here in the yin style–because I think that’s truly what people want when going to a yoga class. They show up, craving quiet and solitude, but then get taught these loud, fast, classes and wonder why they care so much about how their poses look. Or how their hair looks. And then their yoga practice becomes another thing they have to worry about.

I’m not knocking yang yoga, I teach a flow class after all, and some days all I want to do is dance around on my mat with music blasting and do backbends the size of Texas. But we must balance this out, or else the yin sides of our physical and emotional body get neglected. We also live in a society that favors yang, so it is more crucial than ever to have some kind of practice that gives props to our yin side.

Happy holidays, happy new year! Be well,




It’s a practice

Tuesday, December 4th. 2012.

How did that happen?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, dunking my head into a freezing cold river and considering it my shower for the week? What happened to my swollen ankle, my bum shoulder, my levator scapulae, are those all healed now? Why do I have skin on my fingers, and is that…no…can that actually be makeup on my eyes? Did I really just drink a green smoothie for breakfast and do I smell shampoo in my hair?

What are these holiday party invitations addressed to me…since when do I have an address?

What is that in my bank account? Is that…money? I mean, not a lot of money, by any means, but…some? What is this day planner thing, and why is it semi-full with things to do, like working at the climbing gym and teaching yoga and meetings with people to…network?

Okay, so I’m still leaving every chance I get, to go down to Bishop, but it’s amazing how drastically your life can change in a matter of months. Of weeks. Of minutes. In a flash, sometimes. One day you’re this, the next you’re that.

I won’t lie–I have been having quite a hard time being back in the city. And when I say city, you probably think of something like New York, but no, I’m speaking of Berkeley mainly, because that’s where I spend most of my time and that’s where I work. I feel…disconnected. From myself.

I don’t think Berekely is to blame for this. I have been applying, like crazy, for a real job. Or at least one that will support my desire to move out of my Mom’s house. I’ve applied for all kinds of positions–social media manager, after school tutor, office assistant at physical therapy practices, director of marketing, ghost writer, editor, content creator, the list of jobs I would be less-than-stoked to get goes on. And every day, I wake up, and force myself to apply to a few more jobs. Force. I hate it. I hate the process. I hate the fact that deep down, after an hour of writing a new cover letting and tweaking my resume, I know that I’m never going to hear back from this company. And I hate that I don’t really care about getting the job anyway, because all of these jobs seem boring and lame and all I want is the paycheck.

In the past few years, I’ve applied to well over 100 jobs. Out of all of them I have heard back from three–one saying yes, we would love to hire you, but you aren’t going to get paid. And two saying, thank you for your interest but we have already filled the position.

I have to be doing something wrong.

Maybe my resume is shitty? Maybe my cover letter is shitty? Maybe I’m shitty, maybe my college major was shitty and maybe all the work experience I have is really just a bunch of shitty shit?

Or maybe, just maybe, the jobs I’m applying to are shitty.

Shitty for me, that is. I think some people could do the jobs I’m applying for and be really happy and use the job as a way to help people and this world.

I got a message from Maggie this morning, one of the handful of women I know who not only understands but also acts on the desire to constantly be climbing or in the mountains. We talked about The Cycle: move back home, apply for shitty real jobs, get a few fun side jobs, make a little money, get rejected from all real jobs, and then….bail. Leave. Go climbing. And then when you’re out of money, start over.

Just hearing from her made me want to leave. But it also made me realize something else, something more important–I am applying for the wrong jobs. Doing a job just for the money is not who I am. It is highly inconvenient and sometimes annoying, but it’s just not me. I am not one of those people who can just suck it up. At least not right now, I’m way too young and stubborn for that.

No wonder I have been feeling so off. At times, even miserable. So unmotivated. So un-psyched. Not me, not at all. The trips to Bishop help, a lot, but after a few days of being back here, the stoke wears off and I’m back into the funk.

WAKE UP GEORGIE. With this year coming to an end, a year of doing nothing but traveling and being true as hell to myself, why have I fallen back into this cycle? Oh well. At least I’m aware of it. It’s a practice.

I asked myself this question this morning–what do you want to do? If you could make money doing ANYTHING, what would it be? And the answer was clear–somehow combine yoga, climbing, and the outdoors to help people heal. Heal from addictions, behavioral issues, abuse, eating disorders, trauma, PTSD, stress, being a part of this crazy world. I’ve always known I want to do that. I have no idea why I haven’t acted on it more so.

Oh well. At least I’m aware of it. It’s a practice.

Thanks Maggie for the message, thank you for reading, thanks climbing and yoga for keeping me true to myself and making me feel extremely miserable when I’m not acting like myself, thanks Mom and Dad for putting up with me and loving me, thanks to all of my friends, thanks Bishop, and thank you 2012.

And happy holidays. Love to you all.