Yin yoga is a quiet and simple practice, but not necessarily an easy practice. Yin yoga works deeply into our body.
It targets our deepest tissues of the body, our connective tissues — ligaments, joints, bones, and the deep fascia networks of the body — rather than the muscles.
Energetically, Yin yoga improves the energy flow, enhancing the flow of chi in the organs. To be healthy, we need healthy organs as well as healthy muscles.
Origins and History of Yin Yoga
Holding stretches for long periods of time and other techniques closely related to Yin yoga has been practised for centuries in China and Taiwan as part of the Daoist Yoga, which is sometimes known as Dao yin. Taoist priests taught this knowledge, along with breathing techniques, to Kung Fu practitioners beginning 2000 years ago. Yin Yoga as we know it today was founded in the 1970s by martial arts expert and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink. Yin style yoga has become popular due in large part to the widespread teaching activities of Yin yoga teachers and developers Paul and Suzee Grilley, Sarah Powers and Bernie Clark.
Philosophy and Principles of Yin Yoga
Yin and Yang
Yin yoga is based on the Taoist concept of yin and yang, opposite and complementary principles in nature. Yin is the stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things; yang is the changing, moving, revealing aspect. Other yin-yang polarities include cold-hot, down-up, calm-excited.
In the body, the relatively stiff connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, fascia) is yin, while the more mobile and pliable muscles and blood are yang.
Yin yoga works on the Yin tissues - also known as the connective tissues. Connective tissue responds best to a slow, steady load. If you gently stretch connective tissue by holding a yin pose for a long time, the body will respond by making them a little longer and stronger—which is exactly what you want. Remember the principle of exercise is to stress the tissue so the body will respond by strengthening it.
Note: Yin Yoga requires the muscles to relax around the connective tissue in order to get a stretch, so not all yoga poses can be done safely or effectively when practicing Yin style. Thus Yin asanas have different names
Yin yoga poses are also designed to improve the flow of qi, the subtle energy said in Chinese medicine to run through the meridian pathways of the body. It is suggested that these meridians are created by our connective tissue. Improved flow of qi is hypothesized to improve organ health, immunity, and emotional well-being.
Four Main Principles
When practicing Yin yoga these principles should be employed:
1) “Find an appropriate edge”: Move slowly and gently into the pose, and look for an appropriate amount of intensity, never stretch so far as to cause pain;
2) Stillness: consciously try to release into the pose, and to remain still, without shifting position;
3) Hold the position: beginners hold for 1-3 minutes, advanced hold for 5 minutes or more.
4) Release with care.
What to expect in a typical Yin yoga class
A Yin yoga class usually consists of a series of long-held, passive floor poses that mainly work the lower part of the body—the hips, pelvis, inner thighs, lower spine. These areas are especially rich in connective tissues. In a Yin yoga class, the poses are held for up to five minutes and possibly longer. Yin yoga is almost entirely passive, although some Yin asanas contain some Yang elements. During the asanas, muscles are relaxed to avoid muscle spasm, which could result from engaging muscles for long periods.
Benefits of a regular Yin yoga practice
- Increase circulation and improves flexibility
- Stillness: calms and balances the mind and body
- Stress and anxiety reduction
- Fascial release
- Deeper relaxation
- Greater joint mobility
- Meridian stimulation brings balance to the organs
More about Yin Yoga
Classes: View all Yin yoga classes
Articles: Find out more about why you should practise Yin Yoga in: The benefits of Yin Yoga
Programmes: Try one of our Yin yoga programmes - 7 Days of Yin