Can someone teach yin yoga without being trained? I was asked this question during a recent 200 hour yoga teacher training in Bali. As someone who has studied over 500 hours in just yin yoga and trains yin teachers my first internal reaction was a little bit defensive. However, I took and deep breath and replied “Would you teach vinyasa yoga without doing a training?” The student replied no she wouldn’t. I replied, “There’s your answer.”
While there’s actually no right or wrong answer to this question it is a question of ethics. Most people would never dream of teaching vinyasa yoga or hatha yoga without first doing a yoga teacher training certification so why is it that people feel they can teach yin yoga without doing any training? The answer probably lies in the fact that it’s perceived as a “simple” physical practice. Many yoga teachers think they can teach yin yoga because it’s a series of longer-held floor poses – easy right? But a yin yoga practice is much deeper and more complex than people perceive and if you are going to teach with integrity and knowledge then I would recommend at least completing a 100 hour yin yoga teacher training. As a yoga teacher, we are in service to our students and that should be reflected in the knowledge we impart to them.
There are many poses in a yin yoga practice that appear similar to what you would find in a vinyasa or hatha class, but they are known by different names in yin yoga. You can often tell a yoga teacher who teaches yin without any training as they will not use the yin names. The reason we have different names for poses in yin is to demonstrate that the intention behind the pose and how we practice is very different from the way you would approach them in a vinyasa class.
One of the main differences with yin yoga is that we are working the connective tissue of the body, not the muscles, and how we do that is very different. Connective tissue is everywhere in the body and includes ligaments, tendons, and joints. Connective tissue is much less elastic than muscle and takes longer to respond to the healthy stress we apply when in a pose. This is why we hold poses for much longer in yin yoga – anywhere from 3 – 10 minutes. There are three different types of stresses we can apply during a pose – tension, compression, and contraction. There are even different types of compression. Understanding all of these factors is key when teaching yin as is understanding when and how you experience tension and compression in the body to avoid injury. The time of day you practice yin yoga will also affect the connective tissue differently. These may not be things that a yoga teacher would know if they haven’t trained in yin. During our 100 hour yin yoga teacher training we go into much more depth to learn what’s happening in the body and why. It’s not usually taught in a vinyasa, ashtanga, or hatha 200-hour yoga teacher training which is why it’s important to do further study.
There are 4 stages to any yin yoga pose and in order to be able to hold space and guide students you need to understand what these stages are. First, we explore the pose, what are the students looking for? Then it’s being able to offer words of wisdom or insights when they are either restless, impatient, or resigned and relaxed and as a teacher understand why they might have different experiences of a pose. Next comes a sense of yielding and relaxation in a pose. What should you do then as a teacher? What do you offer? Lastly, as a yin teacher, we direct what’s called a Rebound, a neutral position after the pose. Why do we do this? What’s the intention? Again, how do we guide people? If you don’t have any yin yoga training you won’t necessarily be able to identify and guide each of these stages or know what to look for. Settling people into a pose, and offering variations and appropriate props is also key to this. The way you hold space during a yin class is very different from a vinyasa class. Knowing when to talk and when to be silent. Knowing how to create Bhavana (mood of a class) in a yin yoga class is different. How you use your voice is different. How can you teach yin in the morning vs. in the evening to create a different effect? How do you sequence a yin yoga class? There’s more to it than just putting together a series of floor poses.
Yin yoga is considered to be an advanced practice, despite the seemingly simple physical poses. This is primarily due to the mindfulness aspect of the practice. You are asked to stay in a pose that is often physically challenging for time (3 – 7 minutes usually) and do nothing except sit with the discomfort. It can be physical, mental, or emotional discomfort. But it is often the mind that tries to persuade us to come out of the pose early. Yin yoga asks us to be an observer with mindfulness and meditation techniques as we marinade in the pose. This is what makes it challenging for a lot of people, especially yang people who are constantly on the go and struggle to sit still or spend time alone. A skilled yin yoga teacher will know how to hold space for this and will also know how to hold space for emotions or trauma that may come up during the practice. Part of Inner Yoga Training’s 100-hour yin yoga certification includes mindfulness, psychology teachings, and meditation so as a teacher you can develop your own practice and use these practices when teaching a yin yoga class.
If you are a current yoga teacher who would like to add to your teaching repertoire or you would just love to learn more about the yin yoga practice join Georgina in Bali from 25 August – 8 September 2023 for a 100 hour Yin Yoga Teacher Training.