What is Yin Yoga and Why do We Need it?

What is Yin Yoga and Why do We Need it?

By Dawn Zoll RYT 200.
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin yoga is a style of yoga that aims to increase mobility and flexibility by targeting the deepest tissues in our body; namely, the joints, ligaments and layers of fascia that are embedded throughout.  This is accomplished through long held, static poses, typically done seated or lying down. Often, people will describe Yin Yoga as deep stretching. No doubt, that is what it feels like, but it is more complex than that.
While the poses themselves are “simple”, there is nothing easy about a true yin class. Compared to a “flow” style of class where we move fluidly from one pose to another, in a seemingly endless combination of postures to choose from, yin yoga may appear simplistic or “easy”. Especially in todays’ culture of extreme everything, and overstimulation, a yin class may appear to be boring or “wasteful” of a precious free hour! Don’t let appearances fool you!

Why Do We Need Yin?

Think about it this way:  We are exercising the joints. Yes, Joints! How on earth do you exercise a joint?? The answer is – very carefully, of course. Slow and steady wins the race.  It is similar to orthodontics in that, like braces, we apply a moderate amount of stress over a longer period of time. Eventually, space is created, allowing for more joint mobility.  In most yin yoga classes, these poses are held for about 3-5 minutes. For some people, that can seem to be an eternity! The challenge can be both physical and mental. Many people find it difficult to be still – they fidget, trying to “get comfortable”.  But in fidgeting, we are preventing the magic of yin to take place.

What Happens in a Yin Class?

Yin requires a complete and total relaxation of the muscle to allow access to the more stubborn and stiff connective tissues. We are wired to move and often have to work much harder at being still. Others struggle mentally with a yin class.  They find it difficult to “still their mind” during class. Yin can be more meditative in nature. Since we are being physically still, it makes sense that we also try to be mentally still and present. It is natural for our minds to wander and takes practice to “just be” and not run through our to-do list, make up the grocery list, or wonder how much time exactly is left in this pigeon pose?! A skilled yin teacher will help guide you through relaxation both physically and mentally.

So who needs to practice yin yoga?

To answer that, lets look at some of the

Benefits that come with a regular yin practice:

    • Reduces stress and anxiety
    • Calms and balances the mind and body
    • Increases mobility in the joints
    • Releases fascia throughout the body
    • Increases circulation
    • Better lubrication and protection of the joints
    • Regulates energy in the body
    • Deeper relaxation

Wow! You should be asking yourself “Who DOESN’T need yin in their life?” Are you on your feet all day? You need yin.  Do you sit or drive all day? Yin. Athlete? Yin. Stressed out? Yin. Struggling with anxiety, depression, addictions? Yin.  Yoga Newbie? Yin. Experienced yogi? You guessed it…Yin!

Everyone can benefit from a yin practice!

Even those yogis who adore the active, heat building, muscle strengthening yang classes. Our bodies naturally crave balance and a yin class is the perfect complement to the more active yang style of class. In fact, a regular yin practice will ultimately enhance a yang practice through increased range of motion and release of fascia, maybe making that elusive bind finally possible!

What Other Benefits are there with a Yin Practice?

Beyond the physical benefits, yin offers the opportunity to get quiet with ourselves. Yin reminds us to slow down, chill out, take that extra breath and become present. Truly present. It teaches us to be comfortable with discomfort (physically and mentally), which certainly translates off the mat and into the rest of our life. It teaches us to be patient, non-reactive, observant of feelings and emotions that arise, and accepting of our limitations at any given moment. All traits that serve us well as we interact with the world around us.