There are many forms of yoga, and each is good for one purpose or another. Yin Yoga is a relaxing and gentle variety of exercise, creating a yoga discipline on its own. There’s a lot to explore, but first, you’ll need to learn what you’re in for. Read on, and we’ll break down Yin Yoga for you and explain why you might want to give it a shot.
So, Just What is Yin Yoga?
Yin Yoga is a softer derivative of the yogic arts. It’s slowed down and done with different intentions. The biggest difference is that you’re not straining into poses like in much of Hatha Yoga.
Instead, you’re supposed to allow your body to relax into it.
A martial artist actually developed this form of yoga, deriving it from older Taoist Yoga. The idea was to create a way to loosen the muscles and tendons that had tightened in training and to stimulate energy points around the body. The overall philosophy has origins in Taoism as well as Yoga.
Physically, Yin Yoga is very different from most variations. Even when the poses look the same they’re often given different names, emphasizing the differing approach to the asana.
Yin Yoga is primarily performed on the floor. Poses such as child’s pose and saddle pose make up the bulk of the arsenal. The key is to relax in these poses, rather than pushing the limits of your flexibility.
Poses in Yin Yoga are often held for long periods of time. Five minutes is common, and ten is often the stated goal.
There’s one thing that’s hard for some people to grasp about Yin Yoga: it’s not considered a complete practice in and of itself. It’s intended to be the opposing pole for more vigorous exercise or training.
This ties into the name. In Taoist philosophy, there are two primal forces: Yin and Yang. Yang is the active, powerful component while Yin is the receiving and passive component.
Combined they create a balanced whole, which is what Yin Yoga seeks to offer to the practitioner.
The Philosophy of Yin Yoga
The initial development of Yin Yoga was performed as an outshoot of Daoist Yoga. It was taught as a complete practice, with a number of the poses devoted to more active Yang energies.
The essence of the pose, rather than anatomical perfection, is considered an important part of Yin Yoga. The idea is that the mind, spirit, and body align to become one while in a pose.
Yin Yoga has moved towards being primarily a “slow” version of Hatha Yoga. The art has evolved over time and separated a bit from its roots, although not entirely.
Yang, for the modern practitioner, is most often another form of training. For those seeking to get a more complete analysis of the art, and the founder’s thoughts, this interview is rather enlightening.
Since it was originally developed from a Chinese art the focus on energy pathways is also different than Hindu practices. It’s a slight difference between chi and prana but it pays off to spend the time learning about the energetic behavior behind the scenes.
Even if you don’t happen to believe in it, it’s an enlightening element for getting better with the physical poses.
What Are the Benefits?
Yin Yoga’s focus is primarily on long holds of resting asana. Rather than straining against gravity, or pitting muscles against one another, the goal is to achieve some stress on soft tissue without taking a lot of effort.
Due to the slow, related nature of the poses, it’s also a good way to quiet the mind. Like all Yoga practices, Yin Yoga’s pure form also has breathing patterns and meditation taught alongside the physical portion of the exercise.
It also, rather uniquely, works very well for a restorative exercise in addition to your normal exercise or training.
Some of the following can be seen with regular practice:
● Improved flexibility
● Increased circulation
● Quicker recovery time
● Increased clarity
● More stress resistance
It all adds up in the end, and Yin Yoga is an amazing supplemental practice for the right person.
Who Is It Best For?
Yin Yoga would seem to be something to recommend to the elderly and infirm. And it can work wonders there, especially if the “yang” is another form of Yoga.
But it was originally developed for martial artists, and it’s roots show that it serves those who use their bodies to their fullest very well. It shouldn’t be thought of as primary training, but instead the physical “opposite” which helps you achieve your fitness goals.
In essence: it works well for everyone. The gentleness of the poses makes it good for those who aren’t particularly fit, while the philosophy fits very well for athletes and martial artists.
For most, it will be a matter of how they utilize Yin Yoga.
Since it’s so non-taxing on the body, there’s really no harm in giving it a shot without much preparation. In time, for most, it will actually become a part of their preparation for other daily activities, creating a balanced whole.
For someone new to exercise entirely it may be best to try out a different form of yoga. However, if you’re coming from a background of injury or old age it may be the most beneficial place to start building a foundation for your health.
Slide Into Relaxation With Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga is quite a bit different than the usual suspects we see front and center. This relaxing, meditative art is about balance and relaxation. It helps to bring a feeling of wholeness to your exercise, no matter how you choose to practice it.
Whether it’s a “cool-down” exercise or a vital part of your daily outlook, Yin Yoga has some benefits for everyone.