Often characterized by its passive, slow structure, Yin Yoga can easily be brushed off as boring or blasé. When it comes down to it though, more is going on there than initially meets the eye. Here’s some information on this not-so-well-known style of yoga:
What is Yin?
A derivative of what was traditionally called ‘Taoist Yoga’, Yin Yoga gets its name from the Chinese philosophical principles of Yin and Yang. Where Yang qualities are light, warm and active, Yin’s complementary forces are darkness, cold and passive.
Why is Yin Yoga different?
Fewer poses are given with most performed from a seated position on the mat. The poses that are used are generally held for three to five minutes, and sometimes even longer.
What are the benefits?
Holding poses for an extended amount of time serves two primary functions:
- It provides space for increased exploration of each posture. This translates into working with our bodies’ connective tissues, not muscular tissues, which are not usually reached in faster-paced practices. Think tendons, ligaments and joints – specifically those in the pelvic region, including the hips and lower spine. By taking this time to explore, it’s almost as if we’re granted deeper access into our bodies, which in turn magnifies any tension or trauma that needs to be released.
- The second function of longer-held poses is in the still, silent meditation that comes as a result. When embracing a posture without urging to rush forward, your body demands your mind be present, surrendering to the moment and accepting without judgment any sensations, feelings or thoughts that may arise. Learning how to be an observer and remain in a state of passivity is a key to benefiting from a yin-type yoga practice.
The primary challenge of this style is just that; as we go about our daily grind, meditation can easily be likened to a not-so-serious torture mechanism as we grab for control, batting away at any mental discomfort that comes our way. With its meditative focus, Yin Yoga gives us an opportunity to know one’s self more intimately, while honoring the body’s need for rest and release. It may also serve as a useful compliment to more yang-like practices such as Ashtanga or Vinyasa, which work to produce internal heat while targeting muscles through sequenced movement.
One last thing, however, is that trying Yin once isn’t enough to determine if it’s your “cup of tea” or not. Give it a few chances before writing it off. Your hips will thank you, and so will your peace of mind.