Thursday, June 20, 2013

Yin (Yoga) and Yang

From my personal life to my professional life, this past week has been an absolute doozy - in a great way!  But as I've said many times on the blog, however, even positive stress still counts as stress.  If you're flying high for a couple of days, you're bound to feel a let-down - physically, emotionally, or both in the following days.  It's just how we work as human beings.  Consciously or unconsciously, we're always striving for balance.

A week ago today I was promoted to Assistant Manager at Karma Kids, which I'll start July 1st.  I'll have some big shoes to fill as we bid our current Assistant Manager bon voyage as she starts an exciting new adventure in Portland, OR, but I am so excited and feel ready for the challenge.

Then on Saturday, I finally told my sister how I'd been mulling over and toying with the idea of running a full marathon.  Between running my first half, what happened with Sandy and this year's New York Marathon, the Boston bombing, discovering the best running podcast ever (Two Gomers Run for Their Lives - check it out!), and feeling GREAT in my second half marathon...I finally decided that running a full marathon is something I have to do in my life.  And when I get a bee in my bonnet about something, I have to plan it and do it RIGHT now!  My sister had continuously floated the idea of us running a full marathon when we were doing the half, but I've always, always said no to the idea.  Well...suddenly we were making plans, and now we are both officially registered for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon in January! And we are also insane.

Once it got to be Saturday late afternoon, I was getting ready to take a yoga class for myself after a morning and afternoon full of teaching (and constant texting and emailing with my sister during breaks about marathon possibilities!).  The past couple of days had been incredibly exciting and my mind was buzzing nonstop with what the future held.

Normally, the Saturday class at The Giving Tree had been taught by my wonderful friend, a BRILLIANT yoga teacher by the name of Joseph.  Sadly for me, he's no longer teaching that particular class, but as strange luck would have it, it's being taken over by the lovely Jennifer, a fellow Mom/Baby/Kid yoga teacher!  We're working together as I sub a Mom & Baby class at The Yoga Room this summer, and it's always so nice to meet fellow teachers in Astoria.

All of this is a giant lead up to say - I was feeling tired but very, very wired as I laid my mat down to get ready to practice with Jennifer.  The class is called Weekend Serenity, which Joseph tended to structure as half to 2/3's hatha-vinyasa yoga, and half to 1/3 of total restorative goodness mixed with his incredible wisdom and humor.

I figured her class would be similar to his, but Jennifer's first question as I was setting up was, "Have you ever done Yin Yoga?"

And then I got REALLY excited!

I've always wanted to try Yin Yoga - the amazing Masako offers workshops on it a lot at The Giving Tree and I've never been able to go.  Yin Yoga is essentially holding poses for a much longer period of time than usual - about 5 minutes or so - to deeply stretch not only the muscle but the supportive connective tissue around the muscles/joints.  It might seem totally counterintuitive to stretch the connective tissue, but it's meant as a gentle stretch and release to ultimately make it stronger.  It's also not meant as a sole practice on its own but as a complement (a yin complement, perhaps!) to more yang activities, whether it be vigorous vinyasa yoga, running, weightlifting - regular NYC life of fast walking and stair hopping.

Just as with Joseph's class, we spent the last half hour or so in total restorative postures (where your body doesn't have to do any work and you shouldn't feel an active stretch) but for the first hour, we held simple poses - forward folds, pigeon, low lunges - for a long period of time each.  We moved very slowly and did only a single standing pose.  If it sounds like scary torture - it's not, I promise.  I was pretty nervous for the first three poses, especially when halfway through standing forward fold, I got pins and needles from my knees down to my toes!  It was my mind more than my body, though, that was having a tough time adjusting to this sloooooow and steady pace of the class.  It was exactly what I needed.

After class, my body felt like one giant noodle and my brain felt about the same!  I was able to tap into a deep physical relaxation that allowed my mind some genuine rest.  The sequence of hip opening, shoulder opening, and especially hamstring opening was really thoughtfully put together to promote ease in the practice and not force.

As a planner, as a New Yorker, as someone who, though I'm 90% employed by Karma Kids, is technically an independent contractor who sets her own schedule - it can be extremely hard to slow down my mind and body.  Being a yoga teacher doesn't mean it's easy for me to actually keep up with my own personal practice - in some ways it makes it harder!

The Saturday class at The Giving Tree (and by the way, it's from 5:15-6:45 should you ever want to join me there!) has been my end-of-day treat for a long time.  I was very sad to see Joseph go (but if you're around in the morning, he now teaches at 10:15-11:45!) but change is the one constant in life, and I'm really excited to embrace this one.  Life these days tends to be highly yang - fast, aggressive, intense - and without a little soft, slow yin to find balance, we'll burn ourselves out before we know it.


  1. Interesting. They have a Yin yoga class at the studio where I do "mums and bubs," but I never knew what it was. Now I want to try it!

  2. I think you'll love it! It's soooo relaxing


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