Yin often comes across as the wallflower of yoga practices.
It’s not as well known as Hatha.
It’s not as sexy as Hot Yoga.
There’s no rocking out handstands or full wheels or side crow.
Yin is a quiet practice.
Very quiet, as in lots and lots of space for the mind to roam.
Many people aren’t interested in having that space. They want to stretch, sweat, strengthen and get out.
There’s nothing wrong with that. But passing up Yin means passing up on all it has to offer.
1. Increased flexibility
In Yin we hold the poses longer, usually three to five minutes. This allows us to get deep into the connective tissue around the joints. Connective tissue is found everywhere in the body except the nervous system and is not accessed through more active yoga practices. Holding a pose for a long time gently stretches all this connective tissue slowing the body to then make them a longer and stronger.
2. Calm Body, Calm Mind
Yin gives us time to really sink into a pose. Once we get to that space it is easier to focus on the breath and become a witness to our thoughts. I’m the kind of person who can easily get wrapped up in my own stories and thoughts so any time I have a chance to disengage from that habit, I take it. Yin has helped quiet my mind both on and off the mat and has enhanced my meditation practice.
3. Encountering Resistance
As in any yoga practice, our body and mind may encounter resistance on the mat. Because we hold the poses for so much longer in Yin, we are able to sit with that resistance, breathe into it, learn from it, be with it instead of fighting or running away from it. That can then benefit us off the mat as we resist things, people, situations in our daily lives and remember how to breathe into and stay with it.
4. Open Meridians
Yin yoga accesses the same meridians or energy lines as acupuncture. Regularly opening these meridians releases and balances stuck energy and can result in better physical, mental and emotional health.
5. Release Comparison, Welcome Compassion
Since Yin is an inward, reflective space, we are less likely to be looking around the room comparing our practice to others, freeing us from that inner judge and critic. And if they do show up, we are in a much softer space (in both body and mind) to show ourselves much needed compassion. Compassion on the mat leads to more compassion off the mat toward ourselves and others—always a good thing.
6. Manage Stress
We all know how harmful stress is to our health. Chronic stress can lead to sleep disorders, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. Yin is a deeply relaxing practice that allows our bodies to get out of that constant fight or flight response that many of us are stuck in.
Yin/yang is the concept of duality forming a whole: day/night, sun/moon, masculine/feminine. Incorporating a softer, receptive practice with the more active Yang is a perfect complement, forming a whole (even holistic) and balanced yoga practice.
I didn’t know what to expect the first time I stepped into a Yin class. An hour later, I left my mat feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted off of me. Any aches or pain in my hips and low back had melted away. My mind felt soft, my heart open.
I was sold.
Sure, Yin may not be sexy and sweaty but there’s a lot to be said for soft and spacious.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Robert Bejil via Flickr