Yin Yoga - such wonderful words on the tongue. I instantly think of Yin and Yang, the famous interconnected opposites in Chinese culture. Indeed, they are contrasted powers, yet interrelated to one another and give rise to each other. This dualism can be observed in everything around us, and I find it fascinating. I associate Yin to the feminine energy and some specific parts of the body such as the abdomen and inner parts of the legs and arms, whereas Yang has a stronger masculine aspect to it and is connected to the upper back and chest, just to name a few. We actually practice Yang Yoga when we attend the typical Hatha, Ashtanga, or Vinyasa class - which is a dynamic and fast paced type of Yoga - so how wonderful is it to know that there's another style of yoga out there that is the exact opposite?
What is Yin Yoga
Yin Yoga is the sweetest and most gentle physical practice you can give yourself. It mainly focuses on the lower parts of the body, so you engage in sitting and lying positions only, no standing on the mat here. You can expect lots of stretches, forward bends, and to hold the postures for at least a few minutes (anywhere from 3-10min). The aim is to allow your body some space and love, without you fidgeting or not feeling in control of your own mind. While Yang usually works on your muscles, Yin Yoga targets your deep connective tissues (fascia, ligaments, joints, bones, etc) and is a slow and beautiful practice, more meditative, and gives you the opportunity to tune inwards, to notice the physical sensations in your body and observe the mental chatter that goes on in your psyche. It is like a date with yourself, a proper self-care time where you can ask yourself: how are you really doing in there? How can I support you? How can I give you just a little more tenderness…
Main Benefits of Yin Yoga
1 – Reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and mental blockages:
As we hold the same shape for some time in Yin Yoga, you are forced to observe what is going on inside while holding still… this teaches you to breathe through discomfort (unable to leave the pose) and sit with your thoughts. Various studies demonstrate how Yin Yoga has a great impact on lowering stress, anxiety as well as depression, and due to the parasympathetic nervous system being activated your heart rate naturally slows down and your body finds calmness. It is a way of learning to surrender and live in the here and now.
2 – Increases self-love, happiness, gratitude, self -care, and self-development:
The more you practice Yin Yoga, the more you will start to feel joyful and grateful in general in your life, you will find these random moments in your day when you experience a gentle space of stillness and kindness, and you just overall feel happier, more empowered, more patient with yourself and optimistic towards the world. It’s such a blessing to be in a Yin class where you use plenty of pillows and blankets to cover yourself up as you hold the poses, it feels like wrapping yourself in love.
3 – Lengthens connective tissue, increases flexibility + boosts circulation/energy flow:
Your fascia actually needs at least 120 seconds of sustained stretching for it to affect its elasticity, and that’s why Yin is one of the most effective ways to improve your flexibility, but also to strengthen and lengthen your connective tissue, release stiffness in the body and tension in tight spots. In addition, it is said that Yin Yoga can have similar benefits to acupuncture, as its practice allows your vital force and pure energy (Qi) to flow freely within your whole body. I personally really like that.
Earlier in January, I challenged myself to practice 1 Yin class per day for 7 days in a row as part of the beginning of the new year 2021. I could choose the time of day and the length of the class, but no excuses were allowed to miss. I did it from home as we are still in lockdown and I took all my classes for free from YouTube. After practicing Yin Yoga every day over 7 days, I found words like: love, light, gratitude, warmth, calm, gentleness, beauty, sharing, giving and kindness gently blossoming from my heart and sometimes pounding so hard out of my chest that it almost felt emotionally overwhelming, as if I was trying not to burst in a million pieces out of all the love and joy I felt for the world.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog article about Yin Yoga, and if you haven’t already given Yin a try, have a go and maybe you will love it too. There are several videos available for free online and you don't necessarily need a yoga or workout mat, just a blanket and/or pillows will do, and you're in for a treat.