As a yoga teacher who has dabbled in a few different styles of yoga, I believe that the one style of yoga that every human body absolutely needs is Yin yoga.
There are many ways to exercise the cardiovascular system and develop strength in the body including running, hiking, biking, swimming, Ashtanga/Vinyasa yoga, weight training, and more, but Yin yoga is the only proven way to stress, stretch, and lubricate the connective tissues in the body.
In the last two years of practicing Yin, I have not only become more flexible and agile, but have developed a sense of calm, serene, peaceful energy within. Having been a fiery pitta spirit all my life, I did not discover that my calm yin side is as strong as my energetic yang side, until I started practicing Yin yoga on a regular basis.
Rather challenging at first, I grew into it as I observed the changes in my mind and body. Much to my own surprise, I’m a big Yinster these days!
What is yin?
The word yin comes from the Chinese Taoist yin yang philosophy. Yang is fiery, driven, masculine, and focused on doing, while yin is calm, composed, and focused on being. Our muscles, which are yang in nature, are similar to elastic and change quickly, while our connective tissues, which are yin in nature, are like plastic, and slower to change. We pay a lot of attention to our muscles, but how much love do we give our connective tissues, the most abundant tissues in our bodies?
Connective tissues consist of bone, muscle fascia, tendons, and ligaments. They contain fibroblasts (cells that contain hyaluronic acid or moisture) which naturally decrease in the body as we age. Medical studies show that stretching the connective tissues increases the production of fibroblasts, resulting in increased moisture to the joints. Also, with time and age, a variety of yang-based practices start weakening the joints in the body, making them prone to injury. Yin focuses on stressing the connective tissues around the joints, which helps to strengthen them in the process.
There is a constant flow of energy throughout the body through energy channels or pathways which are referred to as “meridians” in Chinese medicine. These meridians reside within the connective tissues of the body. There are approximately 71 meridians in the body, out of which six are affected by Yin postures. They are the liver, gall bladder, kidney, urinary bladder, spleen, and stomach meridians.
When we stretch connective tissues in our body, we affect and influence the flow of energy through the meridians that pass through the area being stretched. The stimulation of hyaluronic acid in the joints during Yin yoga has been suggested to be vital for the movement of energy through the body. And we all know it is absolutely essential to move energy in order to keep the body alive!
How to Yin?
In Yin yoga, poses (including forward folds and backbends) targeting the connective tissues are held for long periods of time (about four to seven minutes), with the support of props such as bolsters and blocks. Yin yoga is accessible and approachable to individuals who have never practiced any other kind of yoga. It is a mindful meditative practice, focused on breath and sensation. It can be relaxing in nature, but can be challenging at first, due to the fact that it is a rather still and silent practice.
Yin yoga cultivates the art of being and accepting things that are outside of our control. It also allows us to keenly observe the subtle sensations in our body, therefore helping us become more aware of our bodies—much needed, especially given the current state of the world we live in!
Whether you are a painter, a football player, or an engineer, long, deep stretches that stress the connective tissues in the body are pertinent to ensure that your joints stay healthy throughout your life. Imagine your life filled with an abundance of agility and flexibility. When yin and yang are in union, it creates a sense of balance in the mind, body, and soul, resulting in a state of bliss. Try Yin!
Bonus! The Simple Buddhist Trick to being Happy.
Author: Shruthi Krishnaswamy
Image: Max Pixel
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy & Social Editor: Nicole Cameron