Yin yoga is a workout for anyone, especially those looking to increase flexibility and strength.
Ed and Louise Hanlon are ballroom instructors and dancers in The Villages. However, they make sure they’re feeling their best by attending weekly Yin yoga classes led by Clint Harris.
“I think he’s a wonderful instructor,” Louise says. “He explains what you’re supposed to do and why you should do it. He also talks a lot about anatomy.”
Ed adds, “I think it helps with our ballroom dancing.”
Rather than deal with the familiar poses of Hatha yoga, Yin yoga is designed to work with the connective tissue called the fascia, the thin material that covers every muscle.
“Hatha is physical yoga. You’re building muscle mass, strength, and bone density,” Clint says. “Yin is a great counter to Hatha on your fascia. It’s almost a friction, a film that allows muscles to pass by each other.”
Clint says as people age, the fascia shrinks more than muscles do, and a full range of movement is needed to keep that mobility.
“We move into a position, an active stretch but only as far as you can go and relax,” Clint says. “You find your sweet spot, the yin edge, and find the relaxation so your muscles begin to soften.”
Yin yoga has a slower pace than other yogas, and the postures, or asanas, are held for a longer time. For beginners, it may be just 45 seconds or so, but more advanced students may stay in one position for five minutes or more. The point is to build endurance to hold the pose longer, allowing the fascia to stretch.
Clint began yoga classes just prior to retirement and laughingly says he did a rare thing for a man—he listened to all the instructions and set out to do it properly. He became so interested in yoga that he went into teacher training. When he retired, he taught classes regularly at the local health club. He has more than 200 hours of training in various yoga styles.
Yin yoga is based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang—complementary principles in nature. Yin is stable and unmoving, the hidden aspect of things, while yang is ever moving and changing, revealing aspects of nature. The one requirement of Yin yoga is the relaxation of the muscles around the connective tissue to get a stretch. That’s why students must not push further than the body allows and attain longer poses as the connective tissue grows stronger.
Clint, who is 67, retired in 2015 and began teaching classes in Beverly Hills, Michigan, where he lived.
When he and his wife, Priscilla, moved to the Village of Lake Deaton later that year, there were no Yin yoga classes, and he decided to fill the need. The interest in his class has produced such growth that he now teaches two classes, but has no plans to do more than that.
“The right size for a class is 20, but more people keep coming, which is why I decided to add the second class,” Clint says. “This type of yoga is great for people with (multiple sclerosis) or those with fibromyalgia. It’s also very good for men, but there are so few men in the classes.”
He says men actually need Yin yoga more than women, but the percentage of men remains much lower than women in his classes.
“Yoga is not competitive, and it’s a kind activity. When you wrap into that meditation, the workout is gravy,” he says. “As soon as I take that first cleansing breath, I’m in the zone.”
Clint firmly believes Yin yoga can take you back in time. “We have wrinkles because our muscles are so tight. When muscles are loosened, that recues wrinkles. It’s subtle but effective,” he says.
It must work because he’s averaging 38 students in both classes. He does wish the yoga craze was penetrating the age group of The Villages like it is the younger generations.
“My takeaway is that my students feel better and sleep better. That’s really the whole reason I do this,” Clint says. “Everything about yoga is immediately important to your lifestyle.”
Yin yoga classes
Moyer Recreation Center
3000 Moyer Loop, The Villages
Burnsed Recreation Center
4019 Deskin Lane, The Villages
Instructor: Clint Harris