January: Benefits of Yin Yoga

First time I tried Yin Yoga was in December 2013 and I absolutely fell in love with it. The long holds, the deeps stretch, the long Shavasana at the end...I didn't want the class to end.

When I did my teacher training I was lucky to have the opportunity to train in both Yin and Yang yoga. Having the deeper knowledge of the body as a whole and the mind body connection has really helped me to benefit more from my yoga practice and helped me to find a balance both on and off my mat.

Yin Yoga is based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang, the opposite and complementary principles in nature. Yin is the feminine, the moon, the stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things; yang is the male, the sun, the changing, moving, revealing aspect. As opposites one cannot exist without the other. They are forever interchangable...and there will always be an element of yin within yang and yang within yin. Other yin-yang polarities include cold-hot, down-up, calm-excited.

Most styles of yoga works on the mobile and pliable yang tissues in the body (muscles and blood). Yin Yoga targets the Yin tissues - also known as the connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, fascia), These tissues respond best to a slow, steady load. If you gently stretch connective tissue by holding a yin pose for a long time, the body will respond by making them a little longer and stronger.

Energetically, yin yoga improves the energy flow, enhancing the flow of chi in the organs. To be healthy, we need healthy organs as well as healthy muscles.

A Yin Yoga class usually consists of a series of long-held, passive floor poses that mainly work the lower part of the body—the hips, pelvis, inner thighs, lower spine. These areas are especially rich in connective tissues. The poses are held for up to five minutes, sometimes longer. The challenge of a yin pose does not lie in the difficulty of the pose but rather in the stillness. Resisting the urge to move, fidget and simply be in the pose can give rise to a range of different emotions and resistans, both physically, emotionally and mentally.

Yin Yoga poses are designed to improve the flow of qi, the subtle energy said in Chinese medicine to run through the meridian pathways of the body. It is suggested that these meridians are created by our connective tissue. Improved flow of qi is hypothesized to improve organ health, immunity, and emotional well-being.

Four Main Principles

When practicing Yin Yoga these principles should be employed: 1) “Find an appropriate edge”: Move slowly and gently into the pose, and looks for an appropriate amount of intensity, never stretch so far as to cause pain; 2) Stillness: consciously try to release into the pose, and to remain still, without shifting position; 3) Hold the position: beginners hold for 1-3 minutes, advanced hold for five minutes or more. 4) Release with care.

Benefits of a regular practice

  • Increase circulation and improves flexibility

  • Stillness: Calms and balances the mind and body

  • Stress and anxiety reduction

  • Fascial release

  • Deeper relaxation

  • Greater joint mobility

  • Meridian stimulation brings balance to the organs

The list of benefits reaches far longer than what is listed above. To fully experience the benefits and to fully know what the effects of the practice are long term, there is no better way than to go to a class and experince it first hand.