What is yin yoga? Yin yoga is a style and practice of yoga, much different than what you probably think of when you picture someone doing yoga today. When you walk into a yin yoga class, you’ll see all walks of life - young, old, flexible, stiff, injured and healthy. You’ll notice lots of props - bolsters, blankets and blocks, and an atmosphere of quiet, calm surrender. Yin yoga works to slowly, mindfully, create heightened mobility through passive stretching of the joints and muscles of the body. Yin, as opposed to yang asanas (postures), are done primarily seated or lying, and held for extended time (typically 3-5 minutes each). Yin is a subtle, but powerful practice to create deep awakenings to parts of the body that have been bound up, through lack of use, overuse, injury or simple aging.
Yin yoga is not simply stretching exercise; it is a powerful tool to allow the practitioner to go deeper - deeper inside their own bodies on an internal journey of surrender and release.
Initially called “Taoist” yoga by the main contemporary founder of this practice, Paulie Zinc, this style of yoga targets the deep connective tissues and fascia of the body; and through deep stretching postures, helps release blockages, create space for more mobility, and regulates the flow of energy (chi) through the body. Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers are also considered modern founders of this practice, and each have developed their own style of teaching yin yoga; Paul with a more anatomical approach, and Sarah, incorporating mindful meditation practices and yang asana. Sarah is also credited with naming this practice “yin yoga”.
Seemingly a newer practice, as it is slowly making a presence in more and more studios worldwide, I believe its roots are as old as yoga itself. The concept of yin and yang has been around for thousands of years, with it's earliest reference in the book, I Ching (700 BC), and we see it in similar practices in the ancient art of Qigong and Tai Chi. Some of the older yoga texts, such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, notes under twenty asana postures, many of which resemble yin asana. When one looks at the early postures of yoga, they were more yin like and held for longer periods of time, to help promote meditation and extended periods of pranayama and sitting. The word “asana” itself is often translated “to sit” or “easy seat”.
One only needs to attend one yin yoga class to begin to see the great physical, therapeutic and energetic benefits to this quiet practice. Here are some other great benefits one can receive through this practice:
· Greater flexibility and mobility
· Increased health and lubrication of the joints
· Increased strength of the joints and greater range of movement
· Develop a more acute awareness of one’s individual anatomy
· Regulates sympathetic nervous system over-activation
· Lowers stress levels
· Lowers blood pressure
· Creates a greater sense of calm, patience and well-being
The intimate practice of yin yoga asks students to get comfortable with themselves, with their feelings, sensations and emotions; things that can be easy to avoided in a fast paced yoga practice. Yin yoga is often used in programs that deal with addictions, eating disorders, anxiety, deep pain or trauma (PTSD). Many people struggle with being alone and find it challenging to face the rawness of simply being in the present moment. Through a developed practice of yin yoga, one can find greater mental stability, basically “learning to sit still.” Finding peace within themselves, sometimes for the first time in their lives.
Here are some great links to delve deeper into the practices and study of yin yoga.
And here's a sneak peek at Paul's newest creation (which I was lucky enough to be a part of filming) about the Functional Approach to Yoga!