What is Yin Yoga?
With regular Yin Yoga classes starting at Rosslyn Bay Resort, Yeppoon, I have been asked what the practice involves and what to expect in one of our sessions.
From my personal experience, I have noticed more lasting effects – anatomically and energetically – in practicing Yin Yoga for twelve months, than I have in practicing traditional Hatha and Iyengar styles of yoga over twenty or so years. So what is it about the emerging style of Yin Yoga that can create such profound effects? Let’s take a closer look.
Yin Yoga is a style that has origins in Daoist Yoga – a type of practice that emerged from China and is a combination of the ancient Indian traditions along with the Chinese theories of energy maps within the body, the cultivation of Qi or vital energy along meridian lines, the explorations of the five elements, and the principles of yin and yang qualities.
The core of Yin Yoga’s teachings are modeled on these ancient theories combined with an anatomical focus, and long-held, still poses that target the deeper connective tissues in the body, rather than just the muscles.
YIN AND YANG QUALITIES IN YOGA
According to the ancient Chinese teachings, the yin character refers to the dark, cool, mysterious, passive, inner, lunar side. The yang character refers to the bright, hot, obvious, active, outer, sunny side.
Many forms of yoga practiced today are considered to be yang – dynamic and active styles and in a physical sense aim to work the muscular half or the yang tissues. Being “elastic” and moist, muscles respond well to being exercised in a rhythmic, active way that stresses and heats the fibers and cells within the muscles.
The more passive and inward form of Yin Yoga targets the other half of the body, the deeper, yin connective tissues – our ligaments, joints, deep fascial network, and bones. These denser, more “plastic” connective tissues, being dryer and much less elastic, require gentler pressures, applied for longer periods of time in order to be stimulated to grow stronger.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN A YIN CLASS
Yin Yoga is a quiet and simple practice, yet not necessarily an easy practice. Whilst Restorative Yoga prompts you to completely surrender and release all effort in the poses, in Yin Yoga we want you to find your edge, the right level of intensity for you, so there is still some level of “stress” for the connective tissues.
Yin Yoga is best practiced when the body and its muscles are cool – so ideally early in the morning, later in the evening before bed, or before an active yang yoga class or activity.
A Yin Yoga class will involve fewer postures that are held for longer periods of time, usually from one to three minutes for beginners and up to five minutes for advanced yogis. In between poses, we experience a state of rest to allow the body to adjust to the changes. Sometimes we can do a brief counterpose or some softer movement between poses to relieve stagnation and to gently get the energy flowing again. Props such as bolsters, blankets, straps and blocks are used to assist you to be comfortable in the poses.
The postures are typically floor-based and target the lower body – the hips, pelvis, inner thighs, lower back – and its meridian lines. These areas are especially rich in connective tissue.
Whilst in the Yin poses, you will be guided to focus on the three principles of Yin Yoga practice (see below), and also your breath, the facial lines of the physical body, and the meridian lines of the energetic system. The long-held poses also allow you space to practice mindfulness meditation or Tantric breath exercises.
The Principles Of Yin Yoga Practice:
1. Find your edge – move slowly and gently into shape to the right amount of intensity for you, without strain or force; respect your boundaries and limitations
2. Resolve to remain still – try to release into the pose and remain still, without fidgeting or shifting position too much
3. Hold the pose for a time – use each pose to practice staying with the sensations in the present moment, experience the stillness and connect with your body
BENEFITS OF REGULAR YIN YOGA PRACTICE
Balances and calms the mind and body
Can improve our range of motion and flexibility
Releases and hydrates fascia and deeper connective tissues
Helps to release toxins and waste products from within our tissues
Can improve joint mobility and avoid degeneration within the bones
Turns off the Sympathetic Nervous System (fight or flight) and turns on the Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and digest)
Increases levels of the neurotransmitter GABA
Nourishes the organs through acupressure via compression of the meridian lines
Stimulates the production and flow of Qi energy
Yin Yoga can help you experience a delicious exploration of your inner yin nature, test your edges, transform physically, and feel a beautiful balancing within your body, breath and mind.
Join me for Yin Yoga classes on Thursday evenings at 6pm, in the Wellness Room downstairs from Beaches Restaurant at Rosslyn Bay Resort, Yeppoon.
With love, Fiona
Clarke, B. (2012) The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga. United States: A Wild Strawberry Production.