Yin yoga is increasingly popular. But what is Yin yoga? What is it that so many people are finding so powerful about it? Why is Yin yoga so very helpful in our busy, stressful lives?
Yin yoga calms the mind
Practicing Yin yoga helps calm the mind, quietening the constant chatter we all seem to have going on in our heads these days.
Yin yoga poses are typically held for 3 to 5 minutes or even longer. This allows time and space for inner reflection and meditation. It can be surprisingly demanding remaining still in a pose for that long, so a mindful approach is essential!
Part of the job of the Yin yoga teacher is to guide students to focus and breathe through the poses. It can be quite an intense experience.
Yin yoga gently strengthens and releases fascia
Yin yoga practice also stretches and relaxes fascia. Fascia is the web of connective tissue which runs through the whole body. You can think of fascia as rather like the white pithy stuff inside an orange, holding everything together.
Fascia includes tendons and ligaments. It also surrounds and connects every structure in the body, right down to individual muscle cells and fibres. There is no real beginning or end to the fascial web. It holds the entire body together and makes movement possible. It allows the muscles to change shape and lengthen. Clearly fascial health is of utmost importance to our wellbeing.
In Yin yoga, we don’t seek a strong sensation of muscular stretch. There is no need for effort, trying harder to push the body’s limitations a bit further. Instead we relax into the position and allow gravity to do the work for us. By keeping muscles relaxed we give fascia the opportunity to be stimulated to grow stronger. The fascial tissues need gentler pressures applied for longer periods of time.
Yin and Yang Yoga
We can think of body tissues, styles of yoga and many aspects of life as being either Yin or Yang. Yang is bright, strong and energetic. Yin is dark, gentle and quiet.
I remember spending a wonderful day at the beach with friends. In the middle of the day we went for a long walk beside the crashing waves in the hot sun. That was Yang.
In the evening we sat quietly in the darkness and watched the moonlight reflected on the surface off the water. That was Yin. Muscles are Yang. Bones and connective tissue is Yin. We need both Yin and Yang in our lives.
The Yin yoga approach
In Yin yoga, the focus is not on muscular effort, but rather on relaxing into an inner journey of discovery. We don’t use our body to get into the pose; we use the pose to get into our body.
Yin yoga is an antidote to the Western emphasis on trying harder and achieving more. It is about stillness, quietness and the unexpected challenges to be found within.
Yin yoga and Chinese medicine
Yin yoga is also linked with Chinese medicine and the concept of meridian lines. This philosophy teaches that meridian lines form a network of energy channels through the human body.
It is believed that the Yin yoga postures help clear the meridians, greatly benefitting the organs such as the stomach, liver, kidneys, spleen and the reproductive system. Spiritual and emotional problems, like anger, sorrow and anxiety, are also impacted, and a Yin practice can often result in significant feelings of emotional release.
Accessible and adaptable
We use plenty of props and supports in a Yin class, to ensure that everyone can access the benefits of the practice. We don’t do any difficult balances, headstands or handstands in Yin yoga.
It doesn’t matter how flexible you are; Yin yoga can be adapted to suit all body types. It is very accessible for beginners, and for people of all ages and abilities.
Give Yin yoga a try
The Calm Space Yoga specialises in gentle Yin Yoga classes in South Essex. Classes are currently available in Wickford, Stock and Brentwood. You would be most welcome to come and try a taster class.