The Art of Yin Yoga with Kristal Radj Paul
by Kay Hare
How long have you been practicing yin yoga and why did you start?
I was working in the drinks industry in a managerial position and although I enjoyed the industry to a point I realised that it was not my calling and promoting alcohol was not serving me. I started to look at ways to improve my health and wellbeing and yoga started calling. I use to be a dancer and I wanted to get back to more flexibility and a healthier lifestyle and yin yoga resonated with me.
Then, three years ago I signed up for a teacher training course in India for 28 days at Chinmay Yoga. This really went into the physiological benefits of yoga in general and the Indian history and culture behind yoga. For me, India is the best place to study and practice as one benefits from the climate which allows the body to stretch and expand much easier and quicker than in colder climates, and of course, it is the home of yoga. Being emerged in culture whilst learning allows an authentic and traditional aspect. I learned about breathing techniques, mantras, and yoga health in general.
My first teaching job was in Cambodia at Bohemiaz resort and Spa. I then started teaching Yin at Orion Healing Centre Koh Phangan Thailand. This also allowed me to study reiki and studio acupressure.
What have you found are the main benefits of yin yoga?
So many. The initial benefit is to improve flexibility not just in the muscle but the tendons, ligaments, and the fascia system that runs over the entire body. Our emotions are stored within the body which is why we get tense muscles and the fascia tenses up when we work with yin and relax the body any we open up any emotional storage or emotional patterns can get released in the body. The benefits are multifaceted but yin invites us to pay attention to our mind, to feel what is happening in the body. It allows us to reconnect with our bodies and look at what thoughts are running through our minds. Often we see patterns of similar thoughts or repeated thoughts that give us good indications into what is going on in our brains and what we are ruminating on. Then we can start correcting and addressing any negative patterns that we have got ourselves into. Ultimately allowing us to live more in the present moment and not running into the future with expectations and worry or the past with regret.
When did you decide to become a teacher and why?
Like I said earlier, four or five years ago I was training in the drinks industry but I realised I wanted to stop drinking. I wanted to continue teaching as it has always been installed in me as I use to teach dancing. It’s part of my character to help people and to communicate clearly. If I see people doing things that I could improve on I like to suggest new ways of doing things, ultimately to help people expand. I like adding different things to my classes to make them unique compared to what other people are doing.
Do you practice other types of yoga as well as yin?
Yes defiantly. I practice and teach vinyasa and I also practice a bit of Bikram. This was by accident as I thought I enrolled in a vinyasa class but got it wrong and ended up in a hot room full of sweaty people but I really enjoyed it especially noticing my skin which felt really soft and cleansed after. I often throw a Bikram class into my routine and Hatha, Astanga, and kundalini. If your practicing one form of yoga regularly and have a solid practice most of the other forms are easy to step in and out of. The body is flexible and can adapt.
What are the main differences people will likely feel after practicing yin and how long does it take to notice the effects?
The main thing people feel is calm. From what I have learned from others and myself I know this to be consistent, after three to four postures in a yin class the energy starts to move around the body and the stillness comes. Relaxation is the first thing you will encounter and then the ability to stretch the body. It doesn’t always suit everyone. Yin is a very feminine practice and people who are active and lead busy lives are often the ones that benefit the most. People who are soft and gentle can lose a lot of motivation and float along in life and probably don’t need too much yin. Men benefit from yin, especially in this day and age as men have so many pressures and a lot of yang energy, not just with men but on the planet. Having more yin integrated into their lives balances out their hormones and energy levels. Encouraging them to be softer in the class and to give more time for themselves. Interesting enough, the founder (1970) of yin was a man a martial arts expert, and yoga teacher Paulie Zink Taoist yoga (Tao Yin).
Can you lose weight practicing yin?
It can help towards a weight loss regime. I think you have to combine Yin with other exercises and you do need active exercise. However, yin helps with lowering the cortisol levels and balancing the thyroid gland which helps with metabolism. It will also help digestion and correcting hormonal levels. Yin is a great accompaniment to strength training and then take a yin class to relax the body when the cortisol levels rise this is when the body holds onto fat and we don’t want this. Yin lowers these levels allowing you to burn more fat during the cardio and strength exercises more effectively.
How often should we practice yin and why?
It depends on the individual for example if your a really busy person with responsibilities his is a Yang energy and incorporating yin into your lifestyle would be good. An excess of yin can have the opposite effect. Everybody is different. Ideally three to four times a week is excellent and varying the postures and not pushing your body. Yin helps you to come into your body and listen so it is rare that injuries occur.
In the current lockdown can we practice at home easily or would you suggest following a group?
I would suggest following a teacher or joining a group especially if you haven’t practiced before. To start a yin yoga practice at home is a great way to begin. I didn’t start a class for a few years as I was practicing at home. I was lucky I had a background in dance so I know how to stretch and warm-up. The key thing is to listen to the body, take it slowly which is what yin allows as compared to a more dynamic practice. listen to the subtle movements in the hip openings and twists. In a class, we are not allowed to touch people but this is not a bad thing as you are not being spoon-fed and the body has to learn and work for itself, learning which stretches work and how the body responds.