The title of this post is exactly what I entered in Google search a few years ago after my first Yin Yoga class. I felt fine physically, but I was emotionally wiped out, dragged down by a heavy feeling that I couldn´t shake off. I was certain I would never go back to that kind of class again. Who wants to feel like crap after yoga?
I´m pretty flexible and yet the long holds that are characteristic of a Yin practice were a bit hard to sustain mentally. I was still not heavily into meditation or finding stillness, and my mind kept jumping from one thought to another. But the worst part was definitely the heavy cloak of gloom and doom that enveloped me as I walked out of the class. To make it worse, it lasted for a day or two. After that, I was back to normal.
My inquisitive nature, however, did not allow me keep on going about my life without finding out everything I could about Yin Yoga. After all my joints felt much better after the practice. I really wanted to know how it was possible to feel better in my body but so badly in spirit, all from the same yoga session.
I bought the book The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, by Bernie Clark, and read it over the course of a couple of days. I´m happy to report that I continued to practice Yin Yoga regularly with no further sadness and also recently became certified to teach Yin Yoga, as a part of my 500-hour yoga teacher training.
I found that wasn´t alone in feeling “off” after this kind of slow and static yoga practice. In an article on Elephant Journal, Sophie Legrand describes her first Yin Yoga class with Bernie Clark himself (that must have been quite the experience), and explains how strong emotions can come to the surface during Yin Yoga. If we are lucky (or unlucky, depending on how we look at it) we may even meet our shadow during the class. The shadow is everything in us that we refuse to acknowledge about ourselves, according to Carl Jung.
This kind of emotional experience happens when a Yin Pose (which is held for minutes at a time) eventually releases pent up emotions in the connective tissue of certain areas of our body such as the hips. Connective tissue, also known as fascia, connects and binds other tissues, joints and organs, embodies our past traumas and unresolved issues.
The particular class I took for the first time had us hold dragon pose, sleeping swan pose and other hip openers, for what seemed like an eternity. I don´t recall feeling any particular sense of release during the class. I didn´t cry, I didn´t feel sad, I was just … there, acutely and painfully aware of the discomfort in my hips. I didn´t have that apparently common reaction that Seane Corn describes in her book Revolution of the Soul, where she sobbed and shook uncontrollably after holding pigeon pose for a while. My reaction was delayed, more subtle and lasted longer.
So if you´re feeling like crap after your first Yin Yoga class, sit with the feeling, maybe find a therapist to talk to if you are overwhelmed by emotion, write in your journal, take care of yourself, and then give it another go when you feel better.
Try not to take the poses to their full expression, and always dial it back a little: in Yin Yoga teachers often speak of “playing the edge,” and many take that to mean “take it to the absolute edge of your possibilities” when it really means “explore your personal edge and then take it down a notch.”
To find out more about Yin Yoga, I recommend the book YinSights, also by Bernie Clark, which I wish I´d read before all others! I´d love to know how your first Yin Yoga class felt and whether you´ve explored Yin further.