What is Yin Yoga?
Yin yoga is a style of yoga derived from ancient Chinese philosophy. The physical practice works on the connective tissues of the body – the bones, ligaments, joints and fascia.
In Yin yoga, poses are typically held for between 3 and 20 minutes. The longer hold of the asana gives the body time to open and release tension in the connective tissues. The poses help to increase prana (the life force) in the body and release energy blocks, enabling energy to flow freely through the meridians (energy channels). A yin yoga practice is often compared to an acupuncture session.
Yin and Yang
According to Taoism (Ancient Chinese Philosophy), everything in nature can be divided into two opposing principles, yin and yang.
Yin is the softer energy and is related to the female. Yin is stillness, softness, the moon, dark, surrender, passivity, cold, autumn and winter, shade, earth, matter, that which is solid.
Yang is masculine, movement/motion, activity, sun, warmth, heat, spring/summer, light, energy.
Yin and Yang are opposites of each other, and can either be described as being on opposing ends of a spectrum (e.g. summer and winter) or as opposites of that which is constantly changing (e.g. water is Yin to steam, but Yang to ice).
Whilst the two principles are completely opposite to each other, they are interdependent. One cannot exist without the other. One is not more important than the other, rather we need to try and create a balance between the two in our lives.
Why is Yin Yoga so important?
In our increasingly busy lives, we tend to have a lot more Yang than Yin.
Yang activities are – working, driving, travelling, communication/relationships, housework, talking on the phone, dancing, sports, cardiovascular exercise, watching TV.. the list continues! In fact, any activity that is ‘outwards’ or active.
A Yin yoga practice can help to re-balance the effects of this Yang life-style, which can leave us feeling wired with over active minds
Yin activities are- sleeping, resting, meditation, reading, time spent alone, being still. Or any activity that you can think of that’s ‘inwards’.
However, one can also have too much Yin, and require more of a Yang Yoga practice to balance this. If you have too much Yin, you may feel dull, lethargic and a bit stagnant, and will need a more active ‘Yang’ practice to get you moving again (Something like Ashtanga Vinyasa, Vinyasa Flow or Hatha Flow- For more information about the different styles of yoga, click here)
Come to lye prone (belly down) on your mat.
Slowly lift your upper body and place your forearms and hands on the ground.
Bring your elbows just underneath your shoulders (only if this feels good for your lower back – if it doesn’t, bring your hands forward slightly and lower your torso down) Or, if you would like more of a challenge, straighten your arms and bring your elbows off the ground and push yourself up a little higher into Seal Pose.
Relax your legs
Find your first edge (the first point of resistance)
In other styles of yoga, we tend to take our bodies as far as we can into a posture (because we usually only stay for around 5 breaths, we have a shorter amount of time to open into the pose). However, in Yin Yoga we stay in the pose from 3 to 20 minutes. So just find your first edge and stay with it. Allow your body to slowly open and invite you gradually deeper into the pose.
When you are in the posture, try to stay present. Yin Yoga gives us the perfect opportunity to check in with ourselves and notice thought patterns that we have developed. Through practice we learn to become aware of the ‘space’ inside ourselves, and whilst we are in each posture we can observe what arises in that space. Thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations in the body… many things may come up. And Yin yoga allows us to be the observer of it all. To breathe through it all, without judgement. And as with all yoga practices, lessons and insights learnt on the mat can be taken off the mat and into your life. We often want to run away from situations that are uncomfortable or boring or confronting. Here we learn to be present through it all, accept what is and simply breathe.
Give it a try. Bring a bit of Yin Yoga to your day.