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January 25, 2011

And stretch and yawn…

My latest article for Manchester Confidential:

Thea Euryphaessa indulges in a Yin yoga session at the new YogaPilates studio, Chorlton (Mcr, UK)


I didn’t take up yoga until three years ago when a knee injury sustained during a marathon brought me to a grinding halt. Stubborn bugger that I am, I limped the remaining thirteen miles to the finish line like Hopalong Cassidy. Paid for it afterwards, though.

Any runner who’s ever had the displeasure of feeling their IT (illiotibial) band inflict untold excruciating torment upon their knee during every single step will have felt Eddie Izzard’s pain when he regularly had his IT band ‘stripped’ during his epic Sport Relief marathoning endeavour. How he continued, I’ll never know. My injury, however, drove me first into the arms of a myofascial release therapist and, soon after, into my first Pilates class.

Pilates must be one of the most subtle, stealth-like ways of achieving tone and strength I’ve ever encountered. After just one class, I stepped out onto the street, shoulders back, feeling several inches taller. Since taking it up, several strangers (I kid you not) have approached me to comment on my apparently excellent posture. It’s also a phenomenal way of increasing core strength for endurance events such as the marathon, helping drastically reduce fatigue across the back and shoulders, post-race. But it was my instructor who, on learning about my IT band issues, recommended I try Yin yoga as it works deep into the myofascia.

Myofascia (also known as the connective tissue) holds the muscles in place, much like how the pith of an orange holds the segments in place beneath the outer flesh. Until this point, I’d been reticent to try yoga. I had enough on my plate recovering from an injury and training for another marathon without contorting myself at speed in a heated room à la Bikram yoga. Running’s hard enough as it is. But much to my surprise, like Pilates, Yin yoga was another revelation.

I like to call Yin yoga, yoga for lazy so-and-so’s, although I’m not sure my instructor would necessarily agree or be best pleased with that description. In my opinion, Yin yoga is perhaps the most deliciously indolent style of yoga available but, paradoxically, one of the most challenging too. How so?

Well, in Taoist philosophy ‘yang’ is the hot, hard, fast, dynamic principle; whereas ‘yin’ is its complementary counterpart, typically characterised by cool, yielding, slow, soft qualities. So, in Yin yoga, rather than quickly moving from position to position in a state verging on the manic (which is how Ashtanga yoga felt to me), each position is held for several minutes – several very long, very challenging minutes. Several of the poses were developed and practised by sages to help them strengthen the body so they could sit for long periods of time in meditation. In fact, it’s said that Yin yoga involves some of the most ancient asanas around.

If you’re the type who spends every day rushing, flapping, always ‘doing,’ Yin yoga is the perfect antidote as it simply allows you to ‘be.’ For some, however, therein lies the problem: this simply ‘being’ malarkey can cause a fair few folk to get twitchy. With little else to distract and the gradual lengthening and deep stretching Yin yoga involves, there are those who find it difficult to fully surrender to each pose and hold it for the allocated time. But for lazy buggers such as me, it’s the perfect way to completely switch off, unwind and allow my body to do its own thing, in its own time.

I struck gold with my Yin yoga instructor, Mathew Godebski. Grounded and straight-talking, there’s nothing unnecessarily esoteric about the way he teaches, which is just how I like it. He also prescribed a specific set of poses for me to complement my running practice and help alleviate my IT band injury which, I’m pleased to report, has now fully healed.

If you’re interested in trying Yin yoga, Mathew’s new YogaPilates studio can be found at Unit 14, Albany Road Trading Estate, Albany Road, Chorlton, M21 0AZ. Yin yoga classes take place every Wednesday evening between 7.30pm – 9.00pm. For further details, visit his website at yogapilates.co.uk

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Buy a signed, limited edition copy of Thea’s inspiring book here.

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