Yin yoga is a popular yoga practice that has been becoming more popular globally in the last few years. A Yin yoga class usually consists of a series of long-held, floor poses designed to stretch the connective tissues around the joints (the knees, pelvis, hips, and spine) at a very deep level to increase circulation, flexibility and performance.
It is a passive practice and the poses are held for a long time, usually one to five minutes (sometimes longer) which differs a lot from other (yang) yoga practices where poses are held for about five breaths. It might sound easy to do but there is a real discipline required to holding the poses and endure the strain of the stretches while staying still for long periods of time.
Yin Yoga is Different
Compared with more familiar “yang” practices (hatha, ashtanga, vinyasa or power classes) yin classes have a much slower pace. It is passive rather than active and proves to be a real compliment to the more dynamic yang prictices that you might already be doing.
The Root of Yin & Yang
Yin yoga is based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang, the idea of opposite and complementary principles in the nature of things. Yin yoga comes from the Taoist tradition in China where:
- Yang is about movement, often repetitive movement, creating heat in the body. It is the changing, moving, revealing aspect of things.
- Yin relates to finding stillness and cooling the body. It is the stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things.
Since these two stand as both opposite and compliment, we need both to come into balance and stay in our top condition.
In Yin Yoga you are asked to relax in the posture, soften the muscles and stretch the connective tissues, moving closer to the bone. This can help the students mind shift from yang to yin, active to passive, and be ready to stay in the pose and feel the peace.
The Duration of Yin Poses
Yin requires the holding of a pose and this makes it a challenging discipline because of the duration that each pose needs to be held. Other more “yang” practices can swiftly move from pose to pose, but in this style, all of a sudden you have to stay in one pose for several minutes. There is pain and discomfort from the stretching and you are required to endure it.
The holding of yin postures does require a degree of physical effort, but even more it is the mental work of the long holds that proves to be a real challenge. Students find that they need additional skills in training the mind to focus for long, still periods of time – skills like will power, tolerance and patience – to bear the discomfort of the stretches and any mind concerns that may arise.
The mind-training can definitely be learned and comes in handy during the yin classes, plus it can be utilized after the class as a lesson for life.
Why People Practice Yin Yoga
Most people are very busy during the day and we are constantly bombarded by media – emailing, texting or posting updates on social media – and many stay so busy that there isn’t always time to relax. People do yoga classes to workout and really use the muscles, and the “yang” yoga practices do create inner heat.
Yin yoga is a slower paced practice and it works on the yin tissues – the connective tissues – which are best targeted by a slow, steady stretch, so the poses are held for a longer period of time. This helps to strengthen the tissues and joints while increasing circulation and prana flow to these areas.
The whole idea of exercise is to stretch and strengthen the tissues and people rave about the good effects they feel from doing yin practice. Some say that the feeling you are left with after having practiced Yin yoga is amazing!
So if you are tired and feeling stressed, or you have a lot of mind energy, you might want to look into a yin class, it might just be the answer. It is a good idea to balance all the on-the-go aspects of life and a great way to do that is through Yin Yoga.
Why Yin Yoga Is Popular
Yin yoga was introduced in the 1970s but has gained a lot popularity in the last few years, in fact it has become a staple at many studios. As you do the longer held poses there is a lot of time spent in the floor positions and many people turn to yin for its meditative benefits.
People need balance in their busy lifestyle, which is very yang, and yin offers a yin-balance which helps with slowing down and practicing meditation. People learn how to “let go” into the yin poses and they use the mind training they develop to pass the long holds with self-reflection.
Many people practice the more athletic aspects of yoga which consist of moving the body, sweating and being more flexible but with Yin it is the opposite – it is more slow, peaceful and quiet. Some people aren’t fond of this but many tend to do it as a doorway to meditation and inner peace or release from daily stressful activities.
The Beauty of Yin Poses
Yin yoga is a good compliment practice with other more “yang” yoga methods and yin helps you to reach a balance with the high levels of activity and muscle strain found in traditional yoga forms. You don’t have to cut out dynamic yoga practices to do yin but it can be done as a companion practice with a focus on relaxing and breath management.
Yin poses are done differently because they are not as dynamic, so a floor pose done in a Hatha or Ashtanga Yoga class would be more relaxed in yin with less stress, not as dynamic. You might find that the muscles are relaxed, the spine can naturally round so that the head comes towards the knees rather than the feet, and as the body releases there is a grace with yin. You can use this practice to find both relaxation and peace.
The Benefits of Yin Yoga
We see that Yin yoga is both positive and popular and also that there are many benefits from doing yin practice. Some of the benefits include:
- Improves flexibility
- Greater stamina
- Increases circulation of blood and prana flow
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Calms and balances the mind and body
- Releases fascia and improves joint health
- Increases mobility in the body, especially the joints and hips
- Deeper Relaxation
- Shifts the focus from yang to yin
- Opens the door to meditation and inner peace
Yin yoga requires the muscles to relax around the connective tissue, this way you get the stretch, and it is different than the dynamic yoga practices. The whole approach of yin is different and so not all standard yoga poses can be done safely or effectively with the Yin style.
As a result Yin poses have different names when practised in the Yin style because they are approached differently and held longer. Yin postures are about release and usually focus on manipulating the fascia – the deep connective tissues that fit around muscle groups and the individual muscles.
The main goal of yin is accessing the deeper layers of fascia and the poses mainly work the lower parts of the body that are especially rich in connective tissues. The muscles are encased in fascia, a continuous web of tissue that weaves in and around both our muscles and our organs, nerves and lymph. In order to keep these healthy we need to keep them hydrated so we apply pressure to them with the longer holds. This also helps us to regulate the body’s flow of energy.
Yin Yoga and Meditation
Yin practice is designed to help you sit longer, and more comfortably, in meditation. It is a more meditative approach to yoga which aims at cultivating awareness of our inner silence and the bringing to light of a more universal interconnected quality we can all share together.
It is a deeper, meditative and reflective practice which is both healing and nourishing, and it has profound physical, emotional and energetic effects.
When we do yin we allow ourselves the space and time to travel inward, to a place inside ourselves where we can find things “pure and easy”. A place that is beneath the layers that we create, where we learn to live with strength, courage and grace.
With yin we can find stillness, and it can help us restore balance and focus. We can cultivate a centered mind and outlook and even get insights that can make changes in our lives.
Yin Teachers Can Help
Yin teachers can provide guidance during a class showing people how to observe the breath and be present mindfully. By focusing on the present moment you can allow thoughts and feelings to arise and practice the art of sitting with them, watching them rise and set and being non-judgmental as the witness of it all.
In doing this the minds chatter can be lessened and the thought stream can be rendered smooth and fluid and the yin experience can find you in peace.
Yin yoga teaches you how to really listen, you get more time with you. You don’t have to jump around and go in and out, without any sign of stillness in your practice. Yin is such a great compliment to other styles and it’s great for your own personal life, giving you time to breathe and be at peace.
There are long periods of time in an uncomfortable position, and yin asks you to learn to “be” and flow with “the now”, “accepting what is” and realize the moment that you are in, which is something we all can benefit from daily.
The yin practice of yoga requires students to be ready to get intimate with themselves, with their feelings, sensations, and emotions, and just accept the experience of yin, which can be easily overlooked in many peoples lives and in a faster paced yoga practice.
We hope you have enjoyed this article on Yin Yoga Benefits and we welcome you to continue the conversation with questions or suggestions in the comments section down below. We love to hear from you and please like us on Social Media!