Yoga for the soul: EXTREME YIN

Anna Magee

30 Workouts in 30 Days #4:  With a strong case of Sunday night knackeredness and facing another 26 workouts in a row, Anna Magee chose the path of a super-duper-relaxing new yoga hybrid as her workout last night: Extreme Yin.  It’s kind of a workout

The purists among you may scoff and say ‘Meh, two yoga sessions in a row are not workouts!’  That may be so but I had my period, it was the weekend and I am facing 30 workouts in a row!  So in the interests of pacing myself (not laziness, really) I chose the most elaxing yoga I could find.  Extreme Yin.

Yung woman doing yoga

Yin yoga is a newish form of yoga that holds poses for minutes rather than a few breaths in order to deepen the stretch, instil a relaxation response and open the muscle.  Named after the ‘yin’ of ‘yin/yang’ it’s great as an adjunct to a more dynamic yoga practice or alongside a weight or aerobic training programme (or even a 30 workouts in 30 days challenge) to deeply stretch muscles and avoid injury.

Founded by martial artist Paulie Zink, it’s usually done under low candelight light with long, slow breathing to work deep into the connective tissues to promote circulation and help release energy blockages.  Classes may only get through a handful of postures in a classes.  Anyone feeling exhausted or burnt out, with injuries or illnesses and looking to restore their energy will love it – but it takes some getting used to as it’s just so still.  Extreme Yin is just that, an extreme form of Yin yoga where stretching and poses are even deeper and held for longer – for up to eight minutes.

I did my class through, an online yoga centre that’s been my sanity for the last 18 months.  It was first suggested to me by one of my favourite yoga teacher, Lisa Sanfilippo from Triyoga (and HTV yoga presenter).  It’s a Santa Monica based studio that streams full length classes in all kinds of yoga, breathing and meditation with some of the world’s best teachers including Elena Brower and Marc Holtzman.  Membership of $18US a month (just under 12 quid) and that gives you unlimited access and they’re streaming is all fast and done in HD.

felicia tomasko

Class teacher Felicia Tomasko take most of YogaGlo’s Yin classes and is an Ayurvedic therapist as well as yoga teacher so her classes have a healing and deeply relaxing quality.  As someone who needs to be sweating, puffing and sore to feel like I am doing something good for my body, the only time I ever do these slow, relaxing practices is when I am utterly knackered.  I never, ever regret them.

Still, holding a posture such as seated forward bend with your head bowed and legs outstretched for eight whole minutes becomes an exercise in patience more than anything else.  But the longer a pose was held, what was surprising for me was how slowly but steadily my breathing became deeper and more even and I literally melted into the pose, opening my hamstrings and lower back deeply without any ghastly bouncing or pushing that can injure a tired body.

The other thing deep stretching does is make you yawn.  Yawn, yawn, yawn.  That’s because yoga of all types but Yin in particular are deeply relaxing while also being rejuvenating.  In fact, a Swedish study in 2006 found that yoga’s benefits were comparable to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in lowering stress levels.

Here’s how it works: deep stretching stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the brain involved in healing, rest and recuperation by lowering the heart rate and increasing breath volume so your body literally wants to take in more oxygen.  At the same time, this deep stretching combined with the breath promotes physical relaxation by decreasing activity of the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the brain involved in problem solving and adrenalin release during stressful events.  I yawn a lot during regular yoga and during the hour of Extreme Yin, I am yawning about five times per pose which I guess my body is going into extreme regenerating mode (or doesn’t know what hit it with all the relaxation).  Thankfully, this is happening on my kitchen floor so there are no classmates to assume I am having a cardiac arrest.

During Extreme Yin, be prepared to feel frustrated and sore as Tomasko takes you to the very edge of your patience by holding deep and difficult postures a long time to open the muscles. It made me want to whack her at times but afterwards help me relax deeply and sleep like a child.  Deeply and deliciously.

This is a level two class and I would suggest yoga beginners start with a regular Yin class (Tomasko offers plenty on yogaglo).

Find out more in one of these brilliant books: Complete guide to Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark Yin Yoga: outline of a quiet practice by Paul Grilley The Yin Yoga kit by Biff Mithoefer Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers


Cost: $18US month (£11.79) for membership

Did I pay? Yes, I am a member of

Calories burned: 111 (would you believe it?  While basically lying around!)

Calories calculated using the KiFit Body Monitor




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