Yin yoga developed from the Taoist concept of yin and yang and you are probably familiar with the black and white symbol pictured. Taoism suggests that opposite principles in nature can also complement each other. In life yin is still, quiet and hidden, in contrast to yang which is moving, ever changing and revealing. If we relate yin and yang to our bodies, the stiff connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, fascia) are yin, while the more fluid muscles and blood are yang.
What is yin yoga?
Yin yoga is a quiet, still yoga practice. Yin yoga targets the deepest tissues in the body, our ligaments, joints, bones, and fascia rather than the muscles (as in yang yoga practices which generate heat moving the body.) The principle of yin yoga is to stress the tissue so the body responds by strengthening and lengthening it. This helps to improve flexibility, mobility and circulation in the body.
Yin yoga can also improve energy flow (known as chi in China and prana in India) in the organs helping our body to maintain health and balance.
What to expect in a yin yoga class?
Yin yoga poses are different from regular asanas because the poses are held for longer often 5 - 10 minutes. They mainly work with the lower body - such as hips, pelvis, inner thighs, low back as these are the areas rich in connective tissue. Yin yoga poses are passive and muscles are encouraged to relax in the stretch to avoid spasm. Props are often used to help support the body, encouraging it to relax into the pose and remain still.
Yin yoga helps you switch off from outside stimulus and distractions so is often very therapeutic. It helps release suppressed emotions and prepares the body for meditation.
Yin yoga benefits
Increases circulation in the body and improves flexibility
Relaxes the mind and body
Reduces stress and anxiety
Releases fascia in the muscles
Improves joint mobility
Keeps you young! As our body ages we lose range of motion in our joints and this can cause lack of mobility and flexibility. Our tissues need compression (from holding the stretch for a long period of time) and lengthening to help keep us mobile and youthful.
Cleansing - some yin poses temporarily restrict blood flow to the joint, so that when the pose is released, the blood flows quickly through the area, flushing it clean.
Yin yoga tips
Move slowly and gently into the pose, and look for a suitable amount of intensity. As in all yoga classes, never stretch to the point of pain.
Use props! Yoga blocks, bolsters, blankets, pillows and cushions are great ways of supporting your body in the pose.
Try to remain still, without shifting position if possible.
Hold the position for 1-3 minutes then progress to 5 minutes or more.
Take your time to come out of the pose gently
Curious? Why not join me online Thursday evenings at 8pm for Yin/Yang yoga to find out more.