A popular type of practice today, Yin Yoga is slow paced and passive. It is practiced with long-hold poses, targeting the deep connective tissues, that is, the ligaments, joints, bones, fascia, etc. This is in contrast to Yang forms of practice like Ashtanga Yoga, where the muscles are targeted. Being a slow and passive form of practice, many consider it to be a meditative experience that establishes a deep connection with oneself.
Origin of Yin Yoga
Yin yoga is based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang, opposite and complementary practices in nature. Yang yoga is dynamic, fast-paced, active forms of practice, while Yin yoga is stable, unmoving, slow-paced and passive. The deep connective tissue, which is more difficult to access through yang practices, is normally stiff and unmoving, like yin. While mobile and easily accessible parts, such as the muscles and blood are yang. Yin yoga poses are practiced in a way that they improve the flow of ‘chi’, the subtle energy that runs through the meridian pathways in the body. These meridians are believed to be created by the connective tissue and thus, the flow of energy improves organ health, mental health and emotional well-being.
What to expect in a Yin Yoga class?
A yin yoga class is slow-paced, consisting of floor-based yoga asanas. That is, mostly seated and supine postures. Each posture is held for anywhere between 3-10 minutes with a major focus on the hips, pelvis, inner thighs and lower spine, where connective tissue is in abundance. Practitioners go beyond their comfort zone, relaxing the muscles by engaging them for longer-periods, and going deep into the posture. One must remember, when practicing to work towards finding a place of stillness. Lesser movement, fidgeting and restlessness, the better. Practitioners can push themselves to a point of deep sensation that stretches the fascia and ligaments, but must never stretch to a point of pain.
The connective tissue is believed to respond to prolonged, passive and steady pressure. By holding a posture for 3-10 minutes, you can gently stretch the connective tissue, making it longer and stronger. By adding stress to the tissue in a safe and systematic manner, you can strengthen it. For this to happen, the muscles have to relax. Practitioners have to go past their comfort zone to reach that point.
What are the benefits of Yin Yoga?
Yin yoga infuses the body with energy, encouraging the flow of prana, known as ‘chi’ in this practice. Energy flows to the deep connective tissue, nourishing the deep layers, organs, muscles and various systems. Blood circulation and oxygen supply greatly improves. Flexibility and mobility (especially mobility of the joints) also gets better with practice. There is a strong impact on the connective tissue and more specifically, fascia release. The practice brings about a balance to the organs through meridian stimulation. A deep sense of rest and relaxation also takes place, relieving stress and anxiety, calming the mind and body.
Yin yoga also improves emotional health. To hold a posture for a prolonged period of time, one has to muster determination, willpower, strength and patience. One must breathe through their discomfort and thoughts, causing practitioners to face their fears. The long-hold requires you to stay present, whether one likes it or not. This may bring suppressed feelings and fears to the surface, forcing practitioners to overcome something they may have been avoiding. Gradually, this strengthens emotional well-being.
Popular Yin Yoga poses
Yin yoga poses are similar to other styles of yoga. However, they are practiced with slight modifications and different names are used. Popular Yin yoga poses include the Butterfly pose, Frog pose, Wide-legged Child's pose, Seated Forward Bend, Reclined Spinal Twist, Legs-up-on-the-wall pose, and Supported Fish Pose.
The use of props is greatly encouraged in Yin yoga. This is because the idea is to stay comfortable in the posture for a long-hold. So, if using a yoga block, a blanket or a cushion aids the posture and comfort, then practitioners are encouraged to use them. For example, a block can be used under the knees in Seated Forward Bend and a cushion under the hips in the Butterfly pose. The benefits will still be the same. With practice, flexibility and mobility will improve, allowing you to practice without props and with the same level of comfort.
Who should practice Yin Yoga?
Many of us lead hectic lifestyles that are full of yang activities. From driving, to walking to the supermarket, working and more, yang activities fill our days. Yin yoga is perfect for anyone looking to bring about a balance in their day. Even stepping away from yang exercises, such as running or an Ashtanga yoga class, to a more meditative, passive hour-long session, yin yoga is the answer.
Yin yoga is ideal for anyone keen on a quiet, reflective yoga practice. It is good for anyone looking to calm their mind and body, as it takes away from the busyness of the day and activates the rest and digest response.
Yin yoga is also therapeutic and good for those managing chronic conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis. Anyone recovering from an injury can also practice certain postures. However, it is recommended to get your doctor’s sign-off and inform your teacher of any such conditions.
You may not leave a Yin yoga session sweating, but you will leave the class feeling energized and invigorated. Meditative, calming and intense, yin yoga will have you feeling relaxed and grounded. Remember, as is the case with every practice, give it time and patience. Even if you start with holding a posture only for 3-4 minutes, it’s perfectly fine. With practice, you can increase the time. Book your yin yoga classes at shvasa. Sign up today and get 7-day free trial.