Yin yoga is a passive, slow-paced, meditative style of yoga that encourages the flow of Prana (known as ‘Chi’ in yin yoga). Yin yoga is complementary to yang practices or exercises such as Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga, running, cycling, etc. It also provides the perfect balance to the hectic lives most of us go through today. For anybody craving a slow and calm class at the end of a hectic day, yin yoga is perfect for you.
While yin yoga is passive, it can be challenging as postures are held for 3-10 minutes. It comes packed with immense benefits, from calming the mind and body, reducing stress and anxiety, to improving flexibility and mobility, releases fascia and nourishes the connective tissue. It improves the flow of energy and offers immense mental and emotional stability. Yin yoga poses are floor-based, impacting the chest, back, hips, pelvis and legs.
Benefits of yin yoga
Studies have indicated that yin yoga practitioners, over a 5-week yin yoga program, significantly reduced physiological and psychological risks related to conditions such as cardiovascular diseases. It was also found that yin yoga has a strong impact on developing mindfulness, contributing towards reducing stress and anxiety. Let’s look at the benefits of yin yoga in detail.
Strengthens and nourishes the connective tissue
The long-hold in yin yoga poses impacts the connective tissue in an effective way. The connective tissue - ligaments, joints, fascia, etc. - receive more oxygen and blood circulation, leading to better nourishment. Elasticity and flexibility in connective tissue improves, as well as a release of stiffness. Trapped tension also gets released. With regular practice, the strength and health of the connective tissue improves greatly.
Releases the fascia
Fascia is a sticky web-like structure that binds the body together. It is part of the connective tissue. Accessing the fascia is possible through long-hold yin yoga poses. Sedentary lifestyles and lack of flexibility glues the fascia together, which leads to stiffness. Practicing yin yoga poses goes beyond the impact on muscles to stretch and release fascia, improve oxygen supply and blood circulation. Sustained stretching leads to better releases and improved elasticity of the fascia in the targeted region.
Improves flexibility and mobility
Better the elasticity of the fascia, stronger joints, ligaments, bones, etc. leads to better flexibility and mobility. Physical tension and blocked energy is released, reducing stress and improving range of motion. Through deep breaths help in poses for a longer period of time one experiences the muscles and connective tissue safely expanding little by little. With time and practice, any initial pain or discomfort felt also reduces and flexibility and mobility improves.
Reduces stress, improves mental strength
Yin yoga, though challenging, is a deeply meditative experience. The practice activates the parasympathetic nervous system, calms the mind and body, lowers the heart rate and relaxes the system completely. It helps alleviate pain and stiffness, releases stress and anxiety, and improves overall well-being. Releasing stress and anxiety encourages better sleep, enhances mental focus, promotes relaxation and awareness. By improving mindfulness, one can keep stress at bay even during day-to-day activities. When blockages are removed from deep within and energy flows freely, practitioners find that there is renewed energy, less stress and a more positive approach to situations. Better balance and calmness through difficult situations is also achieved.
Improves emotional well-being
During a yin yoga class, practitioners are encouraged to find a place of stillness. This is that point where one has gone beyond discomfort to a point of stillness in a posture. By holding the posture for an extended period of time, one learns to observe emotions, thoughts, or physical sensations as they arise. It allows you to reconnect with your body, through sensations, thoughts and emotions, without getting overwhelmed. It allows one to come face-to-face with emotions that would normally be suppressed due to fear, lack of time or uncertainty. By allowing emotions to surface and addressing them, one can learn to accept them, releasing a mental or emotional block towards the situation causing the emotions. It must be noted that an experienced yin yoga teacher will encourage you to observe the feelings, but not get caught up in them. Identify them, but not to react to them. Observe the physical sensations of the emotions too - do they trigger a sensation in a particular body part? Or does targeting a specific region trigger an emotion? Noticing these emotions is the first step to releasing them. As you practice and let go, you will start feeling lighter and more relaxed.
For newbies, practicing yin yoga can be a difficult experience. Practice under the guidance of a teacher who can guide and support you through any emotional experience you may face. Moreover, as is the case with all yoga practices, it is important to practice safely. In yin yoga, ensuring the spine is in alignment, the joints are not overextended and the posture is comfortable is important to reap the benefits. Breath must always be harmonious and relaxed. Using props is encouraged as the goal is to be comfortable for the long-hold. Only then will you notice significant benefits of a yin yoga class.