Ashtanga and Yin Yoga are kind of like that unlikely couple that somehow matches perfectly…
Ashtanga, the bold and unrelenting practice that pushes every button, resembles the masculine force that pervades this universe like the blazing Sun. On the other hand, his opposite, Yin yoga, portraits the softness like blankets of pancakes on a lazy Sunday-oozing with sweetness, and from time to time- a guilty pleasure. How these two seemingly opposite styles of yoga like two lonesome puzzle pieces from a ten thousand piece puzzle find their way to each other is beyond me.
I found my way to Yin yoga about five years ago, when I was then a disciplined (and at times rigid) Ashtanga yogini. Back in those days, which seem like forever ago, I would get up at the crack of dawn, roll out my mat and begin the primary series. I found comfort in the rhythmic Ujjayi breath, which if unbeknown to you, is the notorious breathing that resembles almost too closely to the voice of Anakin Skywalker-aka Darth Vader. That soft, ocean-like breath gave me the beat and focus I desperately needed to complete my practice. And so it went, this dawn cracking, fire burning, and sweat dripping ritual carried on for about eight months before I stumbled upon Yin yoga.
My encounter with Yin yoga was very much like meeting that perfect man at a speed-dating event- I can’t remember how I got myself there, but surely I’m glad I did. From the outside, Yin yoga exudes this seductive softness that enwraps my tender hamstrings from doing too many forward folds (if you practice Ashtanga, you would nod sympathetically in agreement). As I yield myself into a gentle Caterpillar, I learn to let go of my limited beliefs, anger, anxiety, and muscular co-contraction. A complete opposite to any dynamic yoga styles, Yin yoga requires you to relax in a seated pose and allow gravity to release the body’s fascia and muscles. Like any worthy suitor, it is the charisma and depth of one’s character that takes the relationship to a whole different level. Albeit the ostensibly warm and benevolent Yin façade, let not be fooled by her alter ego which I’d dare say is like a Scorpion woman taking you into her mysterious world filled with complex thoughts and allures. At times, these long-held Yin poses are my haven to escape from worldly chaos; yet these very same poses could also make me agonize over everything from the class playlist to my childhood trauma. Oh! That alluring Scorpion Yin.
“Embrace contradictions for they make up all of life:
You will eternally be looking for yourself and seeking ways to lose yourself.”
― Kamand Kojouri
Every day when I practiced Ashtanga, I curated different ways to find myself again and again. Finding strength and courage in the most unusual places of the mind, I’d push through fatigue, laziness, weakness, and tears. Having developed a love-hate relationship with Ashtanga, even now I reminisce those moments of epiphany when I’d catch glimpses of my rawness during practice. Courage, ambitions, and strength, Ashtanga is my passage to willpower and empowerment.
But life is never a one-way street.
Yin yoga is the catnip and kryptonite to my Ashtanga Ego. How I would crave this mellow practice to soothe my bruised body, Yin had me crumbling in tears and trembling in the sea of vulnerability. Confronting my past hurts, remorse, sorrows, and guilt, I must find bravery in my dismal heart to stay in the pose or with my feelings. Stripped bare of longings, fears, and pretense, Yin yoga is my passage to humility.
So here we have it, this obscured couple serendipitously finding their way to each other. As I sit back and imagine the wedding of Ashtanga and Yin yoga, how they’d humbly exchange vows to promise to be each other’s lover, companion, and friend; comrades in adventures, allies in conflict; to be each other’s fans even in the toughest adversity, consolations in disappointment, and forever student and teacher of the other.
Somehow, somewhere, in this most outlandish imagination, I pronounce Ashtanga and Yin yoga married partners.