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Yin Yoga

What is Yin Yoga? When you hear the word “yoga”, you might think of such styles as Ashtanga, which is physically demanding and requires extreme focus, or Bikram (often referred to as “hot yoga”), which is performed in heated rooms and results in a whole lot of sweat. But Yin Yoga is different. The practice In ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang describe how seemingly opposite forces are connected and can help bring balance. This belief also applies to the practice of yoga. A different style Yin and Yang yoga styles move energy throughout the body and help improve physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
But Yin Yoga offers two components that Yang Yoga lacks: a focus on stillness and an emphasis on longer, deeper stretching of the tissues that surround your body’s moving parts. While most Yang styles move quickly and focus on muscle tissues, Yin Yoga moves slowly and stretches more deeply into the body. While most forms of yoga focus on building muscle strength and increasing flexibility, Yin Yoga centres on stretching deeper connective tissues, such as ligaments, tendons, and deep fascia – the tissue that surrounds muscles. This deeper connection is why Yin Yoga is often called “yoga of the joints”. 

Because you perform Yin Yoga while sitting or lying down in a passive manner, gravity plays a role in developing a deeper stretch while enabling you to hold postures for longer periods of time. In Yin Yoga, instead of contracting your muscles to build strength or elevating your heart rate to build stamina, you’re encouraged to relax and surrender to gravity. Sarah Powers, a pioneer of Yin Yoga, defined three universally acknowledged principles for every practice, which together form the basis for practising Yin Yoga safely and effectively. Finding your edge – knowing when to stop during a posture – helps create the essential balance between no sensation and too much sensation in the body. You can learn your edge by stopping at a point during a posture where you feel intense sensations. If you go beyond that point, you risk injury. Once you find your edge, you remain still. Paying attention to your tendency to fidget, move, or mentally distract yourself is the purpose of being still. By achieving a meditative state, you’re better able to listen to your body and honour your limits. Being still is critical to your yin yoga practice. You’ll gain the most from your Yin Yoga practice by holding a posture. While beginning practitioners might start with a 1- to 3-minute hold time, more experienced students might hold asanas anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.

Yin Yoga blends teachings from two different lineages: traditional Indian Hatha Yoga and the Chinese Taoist Yin -Yang philosophy. Each asana – Sanskrit for “manner of sitting” – is derived from Hatha Yoga, but the process of holding postures for an extended period of time is rooted in Chinese Taoist practices. Today, Yin Yoga serves as the antidote to your often busy and stress-filled life, which is typically yang in nature. Too much yang activity can cause an imbalance on physical, emotional, and mental levels. While you never want to be completely yin, true health and wellbeing come from the practice of balancing the yin and the yang, the passive and the active, and the calming and the stimulating.

Why do Yin Yoga? Yin yoga targets your physical, mental, and emotional concerns through deep stretching and breathing. However, unlike most yang styles of yoga – which typically focus on stretching muscles and emphasise shorter hold times – Yin Yoga reaches deeper into your body and mind.  Your physical body will benefit most from practising Yin Yoga because it touches every element of your musculoskeletal system. Yin Yoga focuses on your fascia – tissue around muscles and organs – so you should feel improved health on the inside, which should improve how you feel on the outside.

The primary physical benefit of Yin Yoga is strengthening the connective tissues in your joints. They’re strengthened through steady, sustained stretching. By applying stress to your joints through stretching, Yin Yoga helps open and lubricate tight joints.

As you age, you start to lose joint mobility. It’s therefore essential to keep your hip, lower back, and pelvic areas healthy and flexible, so you can remain mobile. Yin Yoga can free up those areas to increase the range of motion and improve flexibility, making movement and mobility freer and easier. 

Yin Yoga is thought to benefit your heart and lungs through increased blood flow and deeper breathing. Many asanas also include moves that compress and decompress your abdomen, which is believed to help stimulate your digestive system and promote healthier kidney and intestine functions. 

In addition to physical benefits, like improved digestion, better mobility, and cardiovascular health, practising Yin Yoga on a regular basis can help to alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety, improve your sleep, and have a positive effect on your mental and emotional states. Yin yoga has a deeply meditative quality that allows you to quieten an overactive mind and tune in to your immediate surroundings. When you remove external stimuli and surrender to the present moment, you can enter a meditative state and let go of mental clutter to achieve a greater sense of inner peace and calm. 
Remaining in a high-alert state may contribute to health issues, including high blood pressure and heart problems. Certain asanas could help lower blood pressure and slow down your heart rate to create a greater sense of calm.
When your body is still and your mind is silent, certain feelings – such as sadness, excitement, or anger – can arise during or shortly after practice. Experiencing these emotions is perfectly normal and a healthy effect; your task is simply to observe them as they move through you.