Whether you hold your poses in a Yang or a Yin class, doing so will help you feel more steady and strong. The four main benefits, as I see it, of holding yoga poses for longer 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, the muscles of your legs and arms have to work harder to maintain the pose.
2. Allows time for alignment
When you hold a pose, you have time to actually feel, to adjust and to re-adjust. Watch out for allowing your mind to become completely occupied with this, though. While it’s fine to take some time to focus on your alignment, try not to allow it to become your sole focus.
3. Gives space for emotions
Holding a pose for longer than you are used to can often give space for emotions to arise. You go beyond the point that is comfortable (obviously, come out of the pose if it feels painful or feels ‘wrong’) and going beyond the comfort zone can bring up fear and other emotions.
Every one of us has been guilty at one time or another of immediately reacting when life becomes uncomfortable; we may try to control or change the situation, for example. But sometimes we’re unable to and we have to accept things are as they are.
Practising acceptance is a useful 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 benefit 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 without attaching to them.
4. Stabilizes the mind and body
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 thoughts to come up about shopping lists, what you’re going to make for dinner, that project at work, etc. When that starts to happen, try to be aware of this. Through breathing consciously and staying with your anchor (the breath for example) you can stabilize your mind. By constantly re-committing 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 of holding poses for longer periods (in a Yang practice – 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 may become quieter. This practice is really interesting for people (like myself) who are flighty, easily distracted, quick movements etc. because holding a pose is not something that comes naturally. Ultimately it’s 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 personal. So whether you are quick and flighty or slow and steady, I encourage you to go and explore…
In this class we work with 1 minute holds, exploring poses like Urdhva Hastasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Parivrtta Utkatasana, Padahastasana, Vrksasana, Adho Mukha Vrksasana and more, The theme is to accept all experiences, feelings etc. without judgement.