The name yin is so perfectly suited to this practice of yoga. The word yin embodies a gentler, more feminine quality; a quiet, passive and restorative practice, that is still incredibly powerful in the promotion of health and wellbeing.
Yin yoga has been referred to as ‘the other half’ of yoga, particularly the physical forms of yoga as we know them to be, in the West, where the focus is predominantly on a more dynamic, active or ‘yang’ asanas (postures); working what we might refer to as our Yang or ‘active’ tissues, our muscles. Yin yoga offers us the opportunity to gently stress our deeper, passive ‘yin’ tissues, stimulating blood and nourishment to our fascia, ligaments, tendons and even our cartilage, joints and bones.
As with all yoga practices, the physical benefits only scratch the surface to what yoga can offer mentally, emotionally and spiritually and yin yoga is no exception.
Yin yoga facilitates stimulation of our deep connective tissues.
The long holding of certain shapes in yin yoga allows gentle stress to be applied to our deep tissues, which encourages blood supply and nutrients to areas that naturally have little blood and nutrient supply. This can be beneficial in recovery after other forms of exercise as well as prevention and recovery from injury. It is important to note if you carry injuries to make your yin teacher aware so that they can guide you safely in and out of shapes and ensure the best use of props for your body.
Yin yoga stimulates the parasympathetic ‘side’ of the autonomic nervous system.
Imagine a seesaw: when one end is elevated, the opposite end is lowered. The autonomic nervous stem works in the same way, with two opposite states at either end: the parasympathetic (rest) and the sympathetic (stress). We spend so much of our existence in the modern world exposed to and engaging in sympathetic stimulus. Too much elevation of the stress system is not good for our health; we become run down and unwell. Yin yoga stimulates the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, steering our body to rest, digest, sleep and rebalance. The parasympathetic state is a healing and recovery state that we all need to boost immunity and overall health and wellbeing.
Yin yoga supports energy flow and organ health.
Be it in the form of blood, breath, life force, prana or chi, we all have energy within us that ebbs and flows. Sometimes it can get stuck and stagnant. Yin yoga helps to work on our energy flow through the body’s many organ systems via the stimulation of specific lines or meridians within the body. Depending on the shapes that are assumed, this will change the energetic effects of the practice.
Yin yoga calms the mind as well as the body.
The focus on breath that is encouraged throughout the long holds of yin postures helps to relax the mind as well as the body. both being great for stress management. Long holds create a mental space for thoughts and feelings to arise and be released. There is nowhere to go and nothing else to do, but simply be and surrender into the pose and this naturally allows us to give time to our inner thoughts and feelings that can so easily be missed or ignored during a busy day of yang activities.