Entering the flexible world of yin yoga

Reporter Neil Shefferd tries out yin yoga
Reporter Neil Shefferd tries out yin yoga

Last week I entered a brave new world when I was given the chance to take part in a class of yin yoga run by Kathy Santiago in Winslow.

Yin yoga is a ‘slow-paced’ style of yoga as exercise with poses that are held for longer periods of time than other forms, such as hatha yoga.

Instructor Kathy Santiago

Instructor Kathy Santiago

I was one of six people who participated in the class at the Redfield Centre in Winslow on Thursday, August 8.

Yin yoga is mat-based and involves holding shapes for up to five minutes.

The session I participated in lasted an hour and a half and consisted of a sequence of stretches and poses to exercise different organs.

Instructor Kathy Santiago said: “Yin yoga is a very slow and gentle form of yoga as opposed to say hot yoga, which is fast and energetic.

Reporter Neil Shefferd tries out yin yoga

Reporter Neil Shefferd tries out yin yoga

“Some people think it is all about standing on one leg, but there is so much more to it than that – it is about moving and using our bodies in a way that will benefit us.”

Among the positions I held during the yin yoga class were the bananasana (which helps the heart), the puppy (which helps the lungs), the butterfly (which helps the liver), the seal (which helps the spleen) and the supported bridge (which helps the kidneys).

As a first time yoga participant and knowing that I had to maintain positions for lengthy periods, I was worried beforehand that I might engage in a lot of wriggling and wobbling, however, other than one pose (lying on my back with my legs in the air) once comfortable I was able to hold positions without too many problems.

During our chat after the class, Kathy addressed a couple of preconceived ideas I had about yoga.

She said: “I am starting to see more men coming to yoga classes, but still not enough men are taking the time to do it or are willing to give it a try.

“Men are traditionally less flexible than women, but yoga is about learning what you can do with your body - if you are trying to do something and your body doesn’t like it then it will tell you.”

Yin yoga is very relaxing and the majority of the time I was in a pose I had my eyes closed.

Thankfully I had a good night’s sleep the evening before, but Kathy says she has had plenty of instances of people nodding off during a yoga pose.

She said: “If people nod off it is not a bad thing because it shows people are comfortable, but if people nod off and then snore that can be an issue because it disrupts other people.

“If that happens I would touch their toes and then that would hopefully start bringing them around again.”

Kathy, who grew up in South Africa and lived for a period in the Middle East, moved to the UK as part of a job relocation.

She started teaching in South Africa in her twenties and although she specialises in all types of yoga, over the last eight years or so she has focused on yin.

Kathy teaches in Winslow, Buckingham, Hanslope, Stony Stratford and Old Stratford and is currently running a yin summer school in Buckingham and Winslow during August.

She said: “For some people it takes a bit of time to fully appreciate the benefits of yoga – people don’t understand why they should pay to lie down.

“After a little while people begin to understand the benefits and they get it.

"A lot of people find it transformational.

"It has the ability to change people’s lives and it is very accessible – it is suitable for all bodies.”

To find out more about Kathy and the classes she offers visit her website at http://blue-sky.yoga