An interview with Yin Yoga Director Amanda Trevelino

By Lily Gretz

Amanda Trevelino (C-IAYT, RYT 500) turned to yoga 10 years ago when she felt a strong need to embrace a non-impact form of fitness. Throughout those years, she has continued to soften and deepen her practice, working to “unlearn” patterns of striving and explore a more balanced lifestyle. Amanda has developed the Yin Yoga program to help others explore what moves in stillness and witness the interplay of yin and yang on the mat and in their lives.

How is Yin yoga different from restorative yoga?

Restorative is a supported, relaxing practice that incorporates props to stabilize joints, evoke a sense of weightlessness, release muscular tension, and help regulate the nervous system. Yin targets the fascia, or the body’s connective tissue, to keep it hydrated, resilient, and mobile. In Yin, we voluntarily relax muscles, while loading the joints and surrendering into sensation, duration, and gravity. Even though the practice is stationary, it helps exercise the joints. Yin uses props only to facilitate a safe range of motion, not for comfort like in restorative yoga. It’s a practice of going to a place of acceptable discomfort, our “edge,” witnessing intensity as we stress connective tissue and our personal patterns, and allowing the body to rebound.

What drew you to Yin practice?

I found Yin very accidentally. I took a Yin class one time during my first teacher training program. Up until that moment, everything I had practiced was heavy in asana, with lots of sweating and power poses. Meditation and mindfulness were not something I had put into practice. Yin was like someone was giving me a seatbelt. I finally gave myself permission to be still and present with my body while anchoring into sensation. There were some tears involved, but in the end, I shifted in a positive direction.

Before I began Yin practice, someone asked me, “Who are you gentle toward?” At the time, the answer was: no one. Gentleness was not really a part of who I was. But now, Yin has become a fruitful method of helping me soften and surrender.

How does the Yin experience help deepen one’s awareness in practice?

In the PK tradition, we’re taught to cultivate “the witness quality.” We are called to take a pause and witness, instead of surrendering into reactive patterns. Yin allows us to explore this. In Yin practice, we can recognize the energy of our emotions and then watch them change, as it is in energy’s nature to do so. As we cultivate in the Yin practice, we learn to have a space of pause and feel what’s surfacing. We become incrementally less reactive and more responsive.

How does this program support the Pranakriya lineage?

Yin is a newer variation of yoga which is very loosely derived from Eastern martial arts and Traditional Chinese Medicine. These perspectives followed the flow of life force energy, chi or prana. Yin is not Tantra Hatha yoga, but both traditions teach similar concepts using different vocabulary. Both traditions honor the interplay of the physical and emotional, the mind-body connection.

I’ve developed a Pranakriya approach to Yin by making it a practice for the koshas, looking at students as energy systems. When we change the subtle body, we influence the physical body. A Pranakriya approach to Yin prioritizes sensation over alignment–we don’t do the pose, we allow the pose to do us. In this way, I believe that yin helps us come back to the guru within ourselves and validate our personal intuition.

Who is a good fit for yin yoga?

Anyone whose life has an imbalance. In other words, whether a person is an athlete or an executive, or someone who generally struggles to relax, our lifestyles are typically filled with yang: fiery, striving, effortful stress. Yin balances that out.

People who have stable bodies often find the practice gives them a greater sense of flexibility, freedom, and joint mobility. People who have busy minds often find yin’s quiet stillness grounding and meditative. Yin is a fantastic practice for aging bodies, not only because it’s slow and easeful, but because it stimulates proprioceptive awareness and synovial fluid in joints. What I personally love is that when I’m feeling exhausted, depressed, or unmotivated, it doesn’t take much effort to get into the Yin shapes. It’s not forceful, but it can really change a person’s outlook, energy and sense of clarity. You can emerge feeling a lot better.

yin yogaIn truth, yin is great for any body, including those who’ve never done yoga or who are in some form of recovery. Sometimes, we become disconnected from our own bodies–we are not sure if we are feeling pain or sensation. However, Yin gives us time to look closely at the feelings tied to the physical aspect of yoga. If properly guided, a Yin class should be a safe experience of discovery for anyone interested.

Amanda has an upcoming Pranakriya Approach to Yin Training in Georgia at Decatur Yoga Downtown, September 13-15. Learn more here.