Yin yoga is one of the hottest trends in yoga studios today, which is somewhat paradoxical, because Yin is a cooler, gentler, more receptive approach to yoga. While more active (or Yang) forms of yoga like flow or vinyasa certainly aren’t losing any dedicated followers, more and more students are unrolling their mats for this calm and quiet practice--and are coming back for more. Haven’t tried Yin yoga yet? Read on to learn about the benefits of slowing down.
What is Yin yoga?
Yin yoga was founded in the 1970s by martial arts expert and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink. In the 2000s, it was popularized in North America and Europe by teachers Paul Grilley, Sarah Powers, and Bernie Clark. In a Yin yoga practice, most of the poses are done on the ground, with minimal muscular engagement, and held for several minutes--usually from 2 to 5 minutes per side. The effect is grounding to the nervous system, nourishing to the bones, joints, and connective tissues, and provides a meditative experience in which students can learn to be at home in their bodies. Yin yoga in itself isn’t a complete practice, but it provides rich benefits as a counterpart to more active forms of yoga or exercise.
What makes Yin yoga different?
It provides an antidote to the fast pace of our lives
With our days so full of noise, distraction, and movement, spending a 75-minute class in stillness and quiet can feel like the ultimate luxury. Because the poses in a Yin yoga class are held close to the ground, and for long periods of time, the effect can be quite relaxing, and offers a change of pace that is deeply soothing and beneficial to the nervous system. Many students report relief from anxiety, increase in resiliency, and feelings of groundedness after practice.
It nourishes the tissues
While more active forms of yoga target the muscles, increasing circulation and strengthening them, Yin yoga targets the bones, joints, and connective tissues. By relaxing the muscle tone in the body and creating beneficial compression in the joints, primarily of the spine and hips, Yin yoga stimulates the flow of synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints, contributing to increased range of motion and flexibility. The long-held poses of Yin also help target and release deeply-held patterns of tension in the fascia, which helps reduce overall stress.
It provides a high energy yield for a low energy input
Because it is largely a practice of stillness, practicing Yin yoga really only demands as much energy as you need to to get on the floor. But since Yin poses stimulates the meridians in the body--the same energy channels that acupuncture targets--they can actually give you a subtle energy boost, and balance the energy in the system. This makes Yin the ideal practice for seasons of life when illness or stress make a regular practice challenging. After the birth of her first child, fellow yoga instructor Jenn Wooten turned to a yin practice. Being a new mom, she was depleted, and wanted to do yoga, but was low on energy and time to do so. Yin was the most beneficial practice for her in the trying early days of motherhood.
It’s the easiest practice to do at home
Yin yoga is very simple: it requires little energy, space, or special props. You don’t need specialized knowledge to put together a sequence: one or two poses that you like can be enough. As little as 5 minutes of this practice can yield powerful physical and energetic benefits. It’s easy to do on your own, to take on the road, and to weave into the fabric of your life in moments when you need to ground your body, but don’t have the resources for a longer or more complex practice.
It helps us befriend our experience
Yin yoga isn’t a practice of improvement--it’s a practice of welcoming and allowing. Yin yoga takes us as we are, warts and all, and shows us how we can be at peace with ourselves and the challenges of the moment. By focusing on being in the pose instead of doing the pose, on being passive instead of active, Yin yoga reminds us that we are enough, just as we are, and that sometimes putting down the weight of what we’re carrying and spending some time in stillness and quiet is the best thing we can do. This can be the biggest gift of a Yin yoga practice: showing us the way back home to ourselves.
Ready to try?