Yin Yoga is a unique style of yoga which follows the Chinese philosopy that everything in the Universe contains the opposite but complementary forces of yin and yang. These can be loosely defined as follows:
Most the of yoga we practise in the West is yang in style – it tends to be dynamic and active, often vigorously so. In Yin Yoga, the approach is different. Yin Yoga has a far more passive, meditative and deep energy. Yang forms of yoga stimulate the muscles very effectively, toning, strengthening and stretching them. Yin Yoga instead focuses on the deeper connective tissues and the fascia which surround the muscles.
In Yin Yoga classes you can expect to do far fewer postures, but you hold them for much longer, often for 3 to 5 minutes. Almost all of the postures are seated or lying down, and the intention is that you hold them as far as possible without muscular effort. In releasing the muscles, you allow your body to move deeper into the postures over the longer periods of time.
Yin Yoga is in many ways a practice of surrender – surrendering muscular effort, movement and thinking for a deeper, feeling experience. However, it is not the same as restorative yoga, where the body is usually made to be as comfortable as possible. In Yin Yoga, the connective tissue is being deliberately stressed in order to help it renew, and the sensations can be very intense.
The reason that you hold postures for so much longer in Yin Yoga is that connective tissue does not respond to brief, dynamic stresses and stimuli like muscle does. And yet the connective tissue and fascia does benefit from being appropriately stimulated. It can become better hydrated, healthier and more resilient, but this requires much longer, more sustained stresses, exactly like those in a Yin Yoga class.
Yin Yoga is particularly beneficial for the physical body in a number of ways:
Yin Yoga can be the ideal type of yoga for you if you lead a very yang lifestyle. If you tend to be very active and busy, you may find that you have little time to pause, and connect with your own stillness and inner peace. Yin Yoga is the perfect place to redress that balance. You still the body, consciously releasing those permanently active, switched on muscles, and surrender to the yin experience.
There are also tremendous benefits for the mind of practising Yin Yoga. By its very nature, Yin Yoga is a mindful practice. It is challenging to stay mentally present while you are sitting in meditation. However, maintaining body and mind connection while experiencing intense, sometimes uncomfortable sensations will take your mindfulness practice to another level. Many people find that Yin Yoga is a great way for them to begin a meditation practice. In addition, learning to experience discomfort without fighting it can be a powerful life lesson.
Expect to come away from this class having experienced some profound physical and mental shifts.