I’m not the biggest fan of the word exercise. As a child and teenager, I was really unfit and often in the “special” group for physical education. It also took me a long time to start exercising more for the health and wellbeing benefits rather than as something that was supposed to help me lose weight. This is something I now help a lot of people with. To help them exercise for the positive benefits it can provide, which might not be seen on the numbers on the scale, and to identify realistic forms of movement based on their circumstances. But there is something about the word itself which puts many people off so I prefer the word movement, and yes, yin yoga definitely counts as a form of movement.
In addition to an association with negative past experiences of activities that were not of our choosing at school, the word exercise also conjures up images of people running, doing a HIIT class or lifting weights in the gym. Whilst all of those activities are great for those who can do them without any problem at the time or the next day, many people can’t. It’s quite an exclusive club and leaves a lot of people feeling that they can’t exercise when there may be other forms of movement that are realistic for them. It can also make us think that it only counts if we do it for a certain amount of time, and again that is just not true. Whilst more might be better for a lot of people, people with chronic health conditions who push themselves too far in one go risk a flare up in their condition which can lead to poorer functioning for several days afterwards. And for those with busy lives and lots of responsibilities, trying to factor in getting changed into workout gear, going to a particular venue to work out, coming back, showering on top of doing other things that we need to survive like eat and sleep just feels like mission impossible. It also stops us counting all the other forms of movement that we do in our everyday lives. So someone who runs around after their kids, cooks meals, does the laundry, cleans the bathroom, washes the dishes, cleans the floor etc may not realise how active they really are and then wonder why they are too exhausted to “exercise” and label themselves as lazy, which is really unfair given how hard they work.
This is why I am an advocate for whatever forms of movement are realistic for your life. It’s a bonus if this sometimes raises your heart rate and sometimes lowers it with relaxation but do whatever works, aiming for some form of balance across levels of activity and rest. For me, home workouts and a home yin yoga practice are the only way I can keep up with extra activity in a consistent way on top of any walking I do at the moment. That might change in the future but for now, that is where I am at and I am grateful for every time I make a choice to meet my needs in that way. A very helpful practice for me has been to only do five minutes some days. An amount that is so short that it almost seems ridiculous or pointless but the point is I’m still doing something. And if I happen to miss a day or two, I can always start again with five minutes without punishing myself with criticism of how much I “should” have been doing in that time because consistency with physical activity does not have to mean the same thing every single day. I actually consider it to be very important to have rest days with only walking or very gentle activity, such as yin yoga or pilates, as well as easing off at certain times of the month to allow for hormonal fluctuations that seem to affect me quite a lot. The more I have learned about my own needs, the more I can adapt to what my situation is at the time.
Whilst I just suggested that yin yoga might be good for rest days, the context of this matters. If you are an athlete or very active in general, it is a wonderful rest day activity. But if you are in recovery from an injury or illness, have chronic conditions which mean you have not done much activity for a long time or have just not found helpful ways to fit in more movement to your day yet, yin yoga might actually be something you do on one of your more active days because it does involve placing some stress on the body (which is why I don’t recommend it for acute stages of illness or a flare up when restorative yoga might be a much better option). That doesn’t mean it has to be that way forever, but it is a great place to start as there is a lot of lying down involved, plenty of rest breaks included as an important part of the practice and there is no such thing as being “good” at yin yoga that you can tell from how your body looks in any of the poses. I have a special interest in teaching people yin yoga skills in a way that they can use flexibly at home without needing to always go to a class so whether you are interested in adding this in as part of your routine for some gentle movement on rest days or if you are relatively inactive at the moment and want something realistic to get you started, have a look at what I am offering at the moment to see if that would be a good fit for you.