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Yin Yoga BLOK
courtesy of BLOK

Yin yoga is the perfect practice for post-lockdown life prep

What you need to know about the chill yoga style, drawing from traditional Chinese medicine and eastern philosophy, that promotes the slow tempo of life we learned amid pandemic

Like a lot of people, lockdown was a formative time for me to get to know my body and reassess the stress I had been putting on it. HIIT, boxing classes, and solo time with the squat rack were my main methods for how I processed life’s frustrations and pressures. That too became its own stressor, fitting in crack-of-dawn workouts with a long commute, a taxing office job, and socialising. Then in the first iteration of the UK lockdown, I struggled to adjust from break-neck speed to the slower tempo of life.

Home workouts proliferated and offered alternative pace for people in lockdown. Without physical spaces, trainers, clubs, and gyms took to Instagram lives, subscription TV services, and private social media communities – BLOKtv, Body By Ciara, Alice Liveing, 1Rebel, Frame, Panorama Barre. I used the time to explore other styles of exercise outside of my usual cortisol-spiking sessions and focus on my mind and the thrill of the new over aesthetic and sweat, from barre and pilates to yoga. 

Now the gyms are open again, I find myself among a lot of others who are taking their changing fitness sensibilities out into the world. Gyms, teachers, and fitness instructors are noting this cultural shift too. BLOK, the studio and digital fitness platform with locations in London and Manchester, launched its digital hub BLOKtv for live and on-demand classes amid lockdown, putting it in good stead to have an eye on industry trends and fitness lover’s changing wants and needs. Jules McLellan, Head Trainer of Yoga at BLOK, notes the climbing interest in one specific yoga practice – Yin Yoga.

“People have become really interested in Yin Yoga and our classes and styles that are more 'yin' in nature, as after lockdown, they continue to look after their wellbeing and take the time to slow down and listen to their bodies,” McLellan explains. 

Yin Yoga is a slower-paced, therapeutic practice that draws from traditional Chinese medicine and eastern philosophy framework. Yin sessions are built on providing deeper relaxation – stretches are deep, slow, and opening, with a variety of seated poses held for 3-5 minutes. Think of it more like meditation than rocketing one-legged downward dogs or grueling headstands.   

McLellan attributes the spike in interest for BLOK’s Yin and BLOKBreath classes to our new social, working, and cultural landscapes. “I foresee that our new ‘Yin Yang Flow’ classes will be highly popular, as it gives people a chance to move tension and stress out of their bodies and to sweat and get their hearts pumping, whilst also still being able to slow and restore from busy lives and hectic schedules as the world opens back up,” she explains. 

Physically, a Yin class will enhance circulation, clear energetic blockages, and increase joint mobilization. It’s great for hip opening, so a good go to for people sitting at desks for prolonged periods of time. The longer held poses target the body’s connective tissues, like our ligaments, tendons, and fascia. Mentally and emotionally, the practice is said to allow the body to drop down into the ‘parasympathetic nervous system’, and therefore becomes deeply healing and nourishing. Yin yoga lovers can attest to its grounding, calming and revitalising feeling.

While many of us will have been working on our yoga practice alone, or maybe dipped in and out and feel unsure and unconfident in returning to group settings, McLellan says Yin Yoga thrives when practiced together. “The shared space and shared energy is a powerful feeling, and can certainly help you to drop into a more calm and meditative state,” she says. ”We also can learn a lot about our own bodies from the questions of practitioners.”

“In my own experience, practicing a weekly Yin Yoga class has enormously helped with my running training. I am able to up my mileage each week with ease, and also don't see any detrimental effect on the rest of my training – where normally I would feel tighter in my hips and hamstrings during my Yang yoga practice. I definitely credit the Yin classes with this.”

I headed to a Yin Yoga class at BLOK’s Shoreditch spot myself, psyched to try one of its most popular disciplines. Pre-pandemic, I was a Strength (shout out to trainers extraordinaire Chloe T and Maiken), BLOKFit, and BLOKCore regular, so it was quite novel to grab a blanket and go barefoot for a session. Where before I’d been aiming to focus on an intense glute burn, in Yin Yoga, I was enraptured by the slow, deep muscle and joint release I felt holding a pose for three minutes. I thought I’d be easily distracted, but the instructor’s clear guidance and support got me to a place of being profoundly present in my body, feeling the energy where I was most tense and letting it go across the hour.

Moving through a series of sitting and lying down poses that stretched my hips, shoulders, and back, my mental to-do list was totally shafted and the brain fog was, for a little while anyway, pierced. At times, I did catch a bit of a sweat too, especially in the hip opener held for three minutes – turns out working from bed and cross-legged on a kitchen chair for a year and a half just about petrifies your muscles! Who knew! The art of slowing down isn’t an easy one, and I felt a huge sense of achievement post-class akin to the euphoria of smashing a PB or getting one more circuit in on the last HIIT finisher. 

Alongside the ‘yin’ elements, McLellan recommends bringing in the ‘yang’: “Come to Rocket Yoga, have a play, and build some heat! Aside from yoga, I would recommend that people do strength training alongside Yin.” I’m not quite at a level of nirvana yet or booking yoga teacher training on a Greek island for Summer 2022, but Yin Yoga is the therapeutic post-lockdown prep I’d highly recommend.