Ever hear the word Yin and wonder what it exactly it means? Yin is the feminine, dark, passive, receptive, reflective, withdrawn, cool, introspective aspects of life. Yin yoga was developed to penetrate deep into connective tissue expanding flexibility while invigorating the energy centers of the body (nadis) to release blockages and increase your energy flow. Focusing on static movement, breath work (Pranayama) and meditation to create a profoundly deep and rewarding practice. The primary differences between Yin Yoga and many other forms of yoga is that you are encouraged to NOT use your muscles and passive poses are held for several minutes.
Yin Yoga Overview
Purpose Of Yin Yoga
Connective Tissue is Yin because it is stiff and inelastic. To balance and bring a bit more Yang into your body in a soft approach think Stretch Armstrong or Gumby or Charleston Chew. Move slowly so as not to break the tissue, but to bring elasticity into the body.
I like to think of connective tissue as plastic wrap surrounding all of my muscles and if the plastic wrap is pulled too tight it will be uncomfortable to move, but if we loosen up the plastic wrap a bit my body will be more open and full of space to move freely.
Ever notice a strong energy pulsing through the body? It is your life force! This flow of energy through the body in Chinese medicine is referred to as Chi and in yoga philosophy as Prana. This energy travels through pathways in the body referred to as Meridians. It is thought in yin yoga that the chi runs through the connective tissue in the body (i.e. the Connective tissue is the meridians/pathways).
Benefits Of Yin Yoga
Have you ever been in the shower and a flood of new ideas or memories come to you? Typically this happens to many of us when we are removed from distractions and our mind has the opportunity to relax. This is similar to Yin Yoga, without the distraction of constant movement and muscle engagement, your connective tissue has the opportunity to stretch and you are able to go much deeper into a pose. In addition, as poses are held for several minutes you body is able to move beyond the 30 seconds it takes for muscles to relax and stretching to occur.
Static stretching is excellent to increase range of motion. Therefore if you are tight due to repetitive movement from other sport activities or your day job keeps you in the same position 8 hours a day or your body has aged (because yes it will do that) – Yin yoga will help stretch it out.
Yin Yoga is also great for reducing stress in the body and mind. Holding poses without distraction for several minutes teaches us to relax. We begin to release tension that is deeply engrained in our muscles.
Is Yin Yoga For Me?
Seriously, every body can do you Yin yoga! Although every body can benefit from yin yoga, it is recommended for senior citizens, individuals with decreased range of motion or injury and athletes. Some teachers focus more on the science of Meridian theory in their class, others are quiet and allow you to focus your mind on the stretching. Often you will find teachers incorporating breath work into the poses (it can help when you hold pigeon for 5 minutes!).
You will most likely be on the floor the entire time in various poses, so do not expect to sweat. It is not a vigorous practice of movement. However, many individuals who are tight can expect the practice to be very challenging because often times holding a stretch for several minutes is more intense and full of sensation than a vigorous practice.
As Yin yoga typically focuses on the connective tissues of the hips, pelvis and lower spine, anyone who sits all day, has low back pain or tight hips, this practice will a great cross training to your daily life.