In Chinese philosophy Yin and Yang describe how opposite forces are connected and can help bring balance. In Yoga terms, the Yang is Hatha, Vinyasa and Ashtanga – stretching the muscles, strengthening, creating heat. Yin yoga is the polar opposite of that, a focus on stillness and an emphasis on longer, deeper stretching of the tissue that surrounds muscle (fascia, tendons, and ligaments). Yin moves slowly and stretches more deeply into the body. It is also called the ‘Yoga of the Joints’.
In Yin yoga, everything is done on the floor (there is hardly any standing). Gravity plays a role in developing a deeper stretch while enabling you to hold poses for a long time. In Multi-style yoga we breathe into our poses for 5-10 breaths, but in Yin you hold it for so much longer – up to 3-10 minutes. In Yin all you have to do is relax – instead of contracting your muscles to build strength or elevating your heart rate to build stamina, you’re encouraged to relax and surrender to the pull of gravity. This means you can round your spine, don’t flex your toes, and relax your muscles. Yin is about how we feel in a pose, not how we look.
Sarah Powers, a pioneer of Yin yoga defined 3 acknowledged principles for Yin:
- Find your edge
This means knowing when to stop during a posture. Helps create the essential balance between no sensation and too much sensation in the body. You can learn your edge by stopping at a point during a posture where you feel sensation. If you go beyond that point, you risk injury
- Be Still
Once you find your edge, you remain still. By achieving a meditative state, you’re able to listen to your body and honour your limits. Being still is critical to Yin Yoga.
- Hold the Posture
You will gain the most from your Yin Yoga practice by holding a posture. You can hold if for 1-10 minutes.
Improved joint health – strengthening the connective tissues in your joints. By applying stress through stretching, yin yoga helps open and lubricate tight joints.
Increased Mobility – As you age, you start to lose joint mobility. It’s essential you keep your hip, lower back and pelvic areas healthy and flexible, so you can remain mobile.
Better organ function –Yin yoga is thought to benefit your heart and lungs through increased blood flow and deeper breathing.
Mental benefits – It can alleviate stress and anxiety, improve your sleep and have a positive effect on your mental and emotional states.
Stillness of the mind – Yin has a deeply meditative quality that allows you to quieten an overactive mind.
Relief from stress – Certain poses can help lower blood pressure and slow down your heart rate, getting you out of the ‘Fight or Flight’ syndrome.