I'm asked reasonably often what it is that drew me to yin yoga, and why I teach it. People are sometimes surprised that I teach such a still, quiet practice, when, well frankly, I'm active and chatty and seemingly quite the opposite. Yup, yang comes fairly easy and naturally to me, yin not so much.....
My first experience of 'general' yoga had an incredibly profound effect on me, leaving me feeling like I'd been smacked across the cheeks with the change I felt in myself. I was so disconnected from my body, from myself, and yoga gave me the connection that I'd never experienced before. I left not knowing what had happened to me - I couldn't articulate then that I'd connected, felt and inhabited my body - I just knew that it felt good and that somehow I felt better about everything in general. I didn't know then that I had found a way to feel better about, and within, MYSELF, but in reality that was what was happening.
I grabbed yoga by the horns and went regularly to classes. I relished the routine that came with ashtanga yoga, the flow that came with vinyasa and I found teachers that I liked and I could feel at ease with. I relished in the new-found strength I was feeling in my body and I decided I was going to 'nail' yoga - from forward bend to arm balances and back down again. (hmmm, and just maybe my tight hips might eventually loosen up a little bit too)
My first experience of a yin yoga class was not the life altering event that my first yoga class had been. Quite the opposite, infact. I went along because I'd heard it was good for active people like me, a good compliment to my sport, and that it worked with the connective tissue. Connective tissue meant nothing to me then, but I thought it had to be a good thing to be working with it?
The reality of my first yin class was that I left 90 minutes later wondering what that was all about! I wasn't entirely sure what we'd done other than spend time with my head which I wasn't at the time so convinced was a good thing. Someone at the end of the class asked me how I'd found it. I'm not sure how I responded, maybe I just smiled, or maybe I said I found it good - I know it wasn't a question I actually wanted to answer.
But yet, the next day I felt surprisingly good. Like, REALLY good. My run felt bouncier and things felt different. I felt a bit more steady on my feet, and seemed to have less tension.
Now, I'd love to say that I was sold, embraced yin and never looked back. But that wouldn't be the truth. Yin crept up on me, found it's way within me and finally I came to love yin, and the yin within me.
It was a long time before I went back to a yin class. But I discovered that the bits that I enjoyed most about yoga classes, and the bits that I felt most benefit from, were the slower sections, the longer held poses, the breath work and the stillness. My overworked and punished body was allowed to slow down and be cared for. The volume of my harsh inner critic reduced and I could hear kindness inside my head. As my practice of yoga slowed down, I found my way back gradually to yin yoga. It was about 3 years before I went back to my next yin class!
This time, I could cope with being still with myself. I could be with my head, and my thoughts, while feeling the sensations in my body. I relished in the permission that I had been given to stop. I loved the concept of meeting my edge. Bizarrely it fitted so much with what sport meant to me. In my triathlon racing I loved the place where I sat on an edge - never so uncomfortable that I needed to stop, but never so comfortable that I didn't have to focus on keeping myself moving. It was a place of flow for me. In yin the edge was different. Where could I be in the pose to maintain stillness, yet still feel sensations of stretch? How could I be with myself, accepting all of my being, without the negative thoughts creeping in, or judging that I had to change myself to be better in some way.
Learning to accept of myself and find peace with who I am has come though my practice of yin yoga. I learned to meet my yin side - my femininity, my creativity, my introvert, my soft side. I stopped trying to push away the times when I just wanted to stop and reflect or rest. These parts of me were of course the compliment to my yanginess: the athlete, the chatterer, the girl that relishes a challenge and is none too uncomfortable with the odd bit of time with an audience. And I'm happier and more grounded doing these yang things now that | bring my yin-side with me. I found my balance and I know when they get a bit out of whack either way.
I resisted teaching yin (infact yoga of any kind) for so many years because it was my thing that I kept for me. The yoga teaching crept up on my much like the yin did. Eventually I did my training because it 'just made sense to'. I have times when I do the odd bit of yangy teaching, but for me yin is where my teaching's at just now. I hope what I bring to my teaching is a space that lets go of outcomes and judgement and instead fosters acceptance and presence. I hope that I bring an appreciation of each person's experience in each class, whatever that may be. I hope that in some way I can help busy minds find a little bit of calm. My ultimate hope is that I can help others to meet their whole self, in stillness and peace, and that they learn, and love, who that person is just a little bit more.
I am Caroline Toshack. Movement is my passion, my mirror, my creative source and outlet. I am a teacher, educator, writer and coach.