The practice of Yin Yoga is similar to a more ‘yang’ style of yoga (more active or dynamic) in as far as encouraging a connection between breath, body and mind and are concerned, but with a completely different focus; directing the attention to the connective tissues of the body (ligaments, tendons, bones and joints) which are normally not exercised in the more active approach to asana.
The practice is suitable for people of all ages and experience in yoga (both beginners and more advanced practitioners) and is the perfect complement for more ‘yang’-type activities (yoga or any other form of exercise) which focus more on building inner heat, stretching and strengthening the muscles.
Yin yoga is in general mainly aimed at stimulating the lower body and areas surrounding the hips, pelvis and spine. It is also different in the fact that postures are maintained for much longer periods of time. Although at first glance the practice may appear more ‘passive’ it offers practitioners another degree of challenge, where holding the postures from anywhere between 1 to 5 minutes it opens up the chance to take a first step towards meditation.
Physiologically the benefits of yin yoga aim to stimulate the deepest tissues in the body, for example within the joints (fascia, connective tissue, bones). These tissues need a lighter, more moderate pressure to open and slowly liberate bodily (and subsequently emotional) tensions often stored deep inside these areas of the body.
According to Chinese philosophy, harmony and health can be found when all yin and yang aspects in life are in balance. It is this state of “Dao/Tao” which can lead us to tranquility and inner calm. Every aspect of life includes both yin and yang elements and we need both.
Society today tends to push us into an increasingly frenetic pace of life where speed and fast activity are applauded. Our days are filled with one commitment after another, with goals to achieve, things to do and people to see. We rarely allow ourselves to stop and observe just how we are at any particular moment; to really check in to what we are doing, feeling and thinking.
The practice of yin yoga provides students a very valuable space to complement what is today an extremely active lifestyle (yang) and have the chance to observe and connect with our deeper, more hidden side (yin), where we stop and stay still for a while, and really come back to the present moment.
Yin Yoga has its roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine and philosophy that incorporates the study of the body’s energy channels known as ‘meridians’, connecting the different organs of the body with our outer body and inner emotions. Holding the yin postures for longer periods attracts energy towards the meridians, allowing the body to free any blocked energy, whilst regenerating and strengthening certain areas as well as improving circulation.
The practice which is so deeply rooted in ancient wisdom and philosophy also has the very valuable benefit of training the mind. Whilst inhabiting our body more mindfully, we can achieve a lasting feeling of great well-being that spreads way beyond the exercise itself.