Holding poses for a longer period of time is an extremely beneficial addition to your practice.
Whether you hold your poses in a Yang or a Yin class, it will help you feel more steady and strong. The four main benefits, as I see it, of holding poses are as follows:
1 Builds Strength
Holding a pose for a longer period helps build strength and stamina. For example when you hold Warrior II for a longer period, the muscles of your legs and arms have to work harder to maintain the pose.
2Time for your alignment
When you hold a pose, you have time to actually feel, to adjust and to readjust. Watch out for allowing your mind to become completely occupied with this. While it’s fine to take some time to focus on your alignment don’t allow it to become your sole focus in the pose.
3 Gives space for emotions
Holding a pose for longer then you are used to can often give space for emotions to arise. You go beyond the point that is comfortable (obviously you come out of the pose if it feels painful or does not feel ‘right’). Going beyond the comfort zone can bring up fear and other emotions.
Everyone of us immediately reacts when life becomes uncomfortable, we try to change it. But sometimes we can’t and we have to accept it. Practicing acceptance is a good thing to do while holding your pose for a while. Learning to stay with the breath and staying present to any emotion that arises will help. Exercising acceptance on the mat will really help you when something happens in your daily life that brings up particular emotions that you don’t particularly like, but you know you can’t or don’t want to change. You can apply the same principles, staying with the breath and observing the feelings go by without attaching to them.
4Stabilizes the mind
So holding a pose challenges the mind. Just like in Yin Yoga, when you hold a pose for longer, staying still in the pose takes more effort to be present. There is also more space for stuff to come up about shopping lists, difficulties in life and that kind of thing. When that starts to happen be aware of this. Through breathing consciously and staying with your anchor (the breath for example) you can stabilize your mind. By constantly recommitting to your anchor, whether it’s your breath, physical sensations in your body or something you choose yourself really helps to cultivate stability in your mind.
After a practice with holding poses for longer periods (in Yang - holding poses for up to 10 breaths/a minute, in Yin - holding poses for up to 3-5 minutes) you will feel very grounded.
It’s like everything sinks into your belly and your legs. You feel solid on the earth and your mind is quiet.
I personally love holding poses. This practice is really interesting for people like myself (flighty, quick mind, quick movements etc) because holding a pose is not something that comes naturally! But it is a practice that is more beneficial than any other because it balances out that other, quicker side of you.
It's all about balance
If you are quick and flighty or slow and steady, it’s ultimately all about finding balance in your practice so getting the right mix of a faster flow and a slower one where you hold your poses is up to you!