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What’s the Difference Between Restorative and Yin Yoga?

Types of Yoga | Yoga

Yoga studios around the world now offer both Yin yoga and Restorative. Since both are slow-paced and suitable for every level, how do you choose which one is best for you? Do you need both? Or just one?

What actually is the difference between Restorative and Yin yoga? Read on to find out.

The Similarities

Both Yin and Restorative forms of yoga asana are slow-paced. They enable you to move slowly and focus on maybe 10 different poses for the entire 90 minute class. Both forms of practice calm the mind and nervous system, enable you to turn inward, and focus on the breath.

They’re both gentle and suitable for all levels – from total newbies, to experienced practitioners, to recovering athletes and seniors. They’re both a lovely way to reconnect with your spirit within – when we slow down physically, we have more space to devote internally.

So if they’re both good for you, gentle, and cultivate an inner awareness aren’t they interchangeable?

What’s in a Name?

I like to think the difference between the two actually is in the name. Restorative yoga is exactly that — it restores the body. (Thank you, Captain Obvious! Stay with me.)

I’m sure you’re thinking that most yoga does that on some level, and you’re right. We practice yoga to heal a whole host of aliments. From arthritis to knee injuries to a sluggish digestive system, yoga heals.

So what makes Restorative stand out from your regular practice? Restorative yoga helps an unhealthy body, or an injured body, restore itself back to normal, back to healthy, back to uninjured.

While Restorative yoga focuses on restoring bodies with particular ailments, Yin yoga works deep into the connective tissues to activate change at that deepest level. Close to the bone, baby.

With passive (rather than active or yang) postures, it challenges you to find peace in what may be a slightly uncomfortable position and hold that position for 3 to 5 minutes, or even longer for some poses. Mostly on the floor, the postures work into the energy flows, or meridians, of the body.

What Makes Both Styles Great

Yin is a fantastic way to increase or maintain flexibility as it focuses on the areas around the joints. You’ll immediately notice more open hips, buttery muscles and a major mind detox. In the long run, it will lubricate joints, release the fascia of the body, increase flexibility and positively affect your yang practice.

My favorite aspect of both of these styles of yoga is they teach you to feel. Rather than rushing through asanas from breath to breath, Restorative and Yin yoga both cultivate a powerful inner awareness.

On the superficial level, you learn to feel how the slightest, most subtle movement changes the asana completely. On a deeper level, emotions surface that you usually suppress. You learn how to sit with difficult or painful emotions that arise and work through them – the same way you physically work with a difficult posture — adjust as needed, sit with it, breathe through it, send it Prana, and smile.

In a Nutshell: Restorative yoga heals a body in need of healing. Yin yoga activates change at a very deep level in an already healthy body to increase performance.

So What’s Right for You?

To determine what’s right for you, scan your body. Do you need a teacher skilled in restoring your particular ailment (bad back, recent surgery etc.) back to normal function? Have you recently injured yourself, or do you have a chronic injury?

If you said yes, I’d recommend a Restorative class with a practitioner who understands how to work with your particular injury. Don’t be afraid to ring a studio to ask – they’re more than happy to help. If they can’t, they’re the best spot to ask for a recommendation of someone who can.

Do you want to increase or maintain your flexibility? Lubricate your joints? Do you want to challenge yourself to go deeper physically and emotionally? Are you ready to explore what lies beneath? Are you ready to go outside your comfort zone? Do you want to balance your already strong yang, or Power Vinyasa practice? Then Yin is for you.

Open your mind to a new experience and let go of expectations – you might just find it’s exactly what you needed.

Let’s take a vote. Are you in need of a Restorative practice? Or is a Yin yoga class next on your agenda? Let us know in the comments below!

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