Most yin yoga classes that I’ve attended or seen advertised seem to be scheduled for the evening. In some ways, I can see why that is; the idea of something gentle and relaxing at the end of the day seems to be a great idea for many of us. However, having spent 200 hours training in yin yoga, including developing an understanding of what the practice can do physiologically, it seems strange to me that more people don’t practise in the morning.
Yin yoga aims to place gentle stress on the fascia (connective tissues of the body) and joints. To access those deeper parts of our bodies, we need our muscles to be as relaxed as possible. If our muscles are warmed up from movement, they may also engage more than is helpful when we try to do yin yoga poses so it may take us longer to access the fascia. In Bernie Clark’s Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, he discussed the various benefits we can get from practising at different times of day, and the physiological benefits are listed for a morning practice with a cold body.
I personally do most of my practice in the morning as I like the idea of maximising the physical benefits but I also get a lot of psychological benefit at this time of day. In the evening, whilst this can feel relaxing, I don’t necessarily feel it changes much for me the next day, whereas when I practise in the morning, it is a way of being mindful, encouraging me to slow down and be aware of my habits throughout the day so that I can have a better chance of acting intentionally rather than getting stuck in my usual unhelpful behaviours. For example, I may be better able to choose to stop logging on to social media or checking the news an unhelpful number of times if I start my day with yin yoga or a seated mindfulness practice. It also helps me to remember to connect to my body throughout the day with grounding and to step out of threat mode before deciding whether a task really is essential or not. Many of us have huge to-do lists but if we’re perfectionists and people-pleasers, as many highly sensitive introverts are, we may also have some items on the list that are beyond what is reasonable for us to do in that time frame and to the standards that we expect.
The other key benefit for me is that it maintains a sense of being active in the colder, darker months when I often struggle to do as much as I think I should. I have accepted this need to slow down with the seasons as well as across the month according to what my body seems to need. I have learned the hard way that if I push through, I might be a bit fitter but the side effects include migraines and decreased productivity. Unless I am acutely unwell, I can always convince myself to try one or two poses in the morning when I don’t feel like doing more, and it’s that kind of realistic, self-compassionate practice that I like to teach to my students.
If you’re interested in joining me for a morning online yin yoga practice, I currently have several on my timetable for people in the UK. At the time of writing this, I also have a few free classes on Monday mornings in December.