Want to feel less tense and stressed? Yin yoga could be your answer.
There are many different styles of yoga to choose from, but Yin has it's very own unique approach that is slow, meditative, therapeutic and simply put, wonderful. Here I share with you the basics about Yin and everything you need to know.
What is Yin?
Yin is a style of yoga based upon the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine & stimulating the flow of energy throughout the body by holding different passive poses, which are usually done seated or lying. On a physical level this helps us improve our flexibility and range of motion.
How does Yin work?
On a physical level: Yin targets our joints and deep connective tissue through long, passive holds of different asana or positions. Whereas our more dynamic styles of yoga focus on stressing the muscles in a healthy way to gain more strength, stamina and to some extent flexibility, Yin targets the FASCIA.
Fascia is the fibrous, collagen filled intricate web that quite literally holds us together - a continuous web that binds muscles, bones, nerves, organs, suspending everything where it needs to be. It is an extremely intelligent system thought of as a sensory organ in its own right, and it needs to stay hydrated in order to function optimally and not shrink/stick together.
Stressing the fascia through long held (at least 90-120 seconds), static stretches allows it to open up, re hydrate and in time increase our flexibility, and range of motion in the joints as tension is stored not only in the muscles but also the fascia.
On a mental & emotional level: fascia impacts our ability to constrict or dilate the blood vessels which relates to our autonomic nervous system or ANS - the system that controls activity of our internal organs eg the bladder or stomach on an unconscious level.
The ANS is further divided in two. There is the sympathetic division which prepares the body to respond to stress and threats (constantly scanning our environment for impending danger/doom i.e., anything out of the ordinary) which activates organs and glands in the endocrine system.
Then there is the parasympathetic division which generally calms the body by slowing the heart rate and breathing, allowing us to recover from the activities the sympathetic system causes.
The two normally work in opposition to each other, with the sympathetic nervous system acting like a car's accelerator and the parasympathetic nervous system more like brakes.
By allowing our bodies to be still and quiet for prolonged periods Yin yoga gives us chance to regulate and slow down our breath and put the brakes on - helping us access our parasympathetic system where we quite literally rest & digest. This is not just on a physical level but also on a mental and emotional one, giving us chance to process the barrage of external stimuli we are subjected to daily.
Having so much time in each pose also really gives us all the time to begin to hone our interoception - ie the ability to sense our inner landscape and attend to our physical, emotional and mental needs, which is hugely useful for all aspects of life, and gradually allows us to better hold with gentleness & compassion whatever emotion arises.
On an energetic level: Yin is based upon stimulating the flow of energy or Qi via the various energetic channels or meridians mapped out in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Meridians are paired with different organs and correspond to different seasons, times and a whole host of other things.
Who is Yin for?
Yin can be a very accessible style of yoga suitable for anyone who wishes to:
~ Release stress - learning the tools to activate the PNS and drop into rest & digest.
~ Improve their flexibility, whether this is to enhance performance in and complement other more dynamic exercise or just for overall health and prevention of injury.
~ Improve the range of motion in their joints ~ again for the above.
~ Spend time beginning to get comfortable with their mind and thoughts.
~ Start a meditation practice - due to how slow /generally static the poses are Yin is also essentially a series of mini meditations.
~ Improve their sleep - releasing long accumulated tension in the body and mind makes getting a good night's sleep a whole lot easier.
~ Improve their circulation - healthy fascia means less constricted blood flow by tight, stiff fascia.
When can I practice Yin?
Yin is great at any time of day, but general consensus is that it is the perfect activity before bed as it can leave you in such a deeply relaxed state after. I may also add it can leave you in a pretty raw, delicate state if you are going through an emotionally intense period, as the ample quietude leaves plenty of space for feelings and realizations to bubble to the surface. For this reason having a journal nearby to process further can be a great idea, as can leaving ample time before your next appointment or daily task.
I make no secret about the fact that Yin is my absolute favourite style of yoga both to practice and teach (!), as it helps me feel balanced & grounded like nothing else.
You can practice Yin yoga with me live online every week:
Tuesdays, 8:15-9:15pm or Thursdays, 8-9pm
or access the recording up to 24 hours later.
Visit the classes page to book & don't hesitate to reach out with any questions.
What do I need to practice Yin?
You do not need any experience of yoga or meditation. What you will need:
~ Patience & an open mind
~ Warm, comfortable clothes to move in
~ A comfortable space to sit/lie/move in, a yoga mat or rug works well
~ Cushions or yoga blocks/ a bolster if you have one, a blanket if possible
What does a typical class look like?
The Yin classes I share generally follow a format of welcoming students, grounding and centering usually with a seated or lying body and breath awareness, before moving into a series of different shapes. These are held for between 3 and a half to 5 minutes. During this time we remain as still and as relaxed as possible while stressing the target area to about 60% in terms of intensity, and most poses are seated or lying.
Props are used to help you find your edge in terms of sensation, and make sure the poses are as comfortable and sustainable as possible. We end the class with a final relaxation pose to allow the body to integrate all the benefits of the practice.
Come join a class for yourself and experience the magic of Yin - your body & mind will truly thank you for it....
Have you tried Yin yet, what do you think? I'd love to hear your opinions, below.